Lagoon

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!)

Lagoon

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!)

Lagoon

Lagoon Camp, May 2022

Opportunism. Or just simply bare-faced theft?

First, the lions stole from the African wild dogs, and then the Spotted hyenas stole from the lion. The cheetahs were busy looking over their shoulders during the hunt, and the leopards pulled their kills up trees to avoid the attention of the lions and hyenas. The merry-go-round of the Kwando Private Reserve continued unabated!

Wild dogs of Botswana

A new pack of five African wild dogs was seen in the area during the first quarter of the month. One crucial piece of news is that the alpha female of the Lagoon pack (still comprising eight members) was heavily pregnant. They will be looking for a den soon, and we look forward to sharing that with our guests once the newborn puppies emerge.

Oribi spotted in the Kwando Private Reserve

An extraordinary and relatively uncommon sighting, we encountered the Oribi during a game drive. While being denoted as “least concern” in terms of conservation threat level, it is not a frequently viewed antelope in our area. This is the largest of the small antelopes, which can sometimes be confused with the slightly smaller Steenbok. They occur in small parties, so hopefully, he had some family around too.

Talking of lists, the bird life at Lagoon Camp has been excellent. Although many of the migrants were gone, there were still hundreds of species to witness: African fish eagles, Grey herons, Malachite kingfishers, Pied kingfishers, African darter, African jacana, Wattled cranes, vultures (White-backed, Lappet-faced, Hooded), pelicans, African spoonbills, Yellow-billed storks, Egyptian geese – the tally goes on and on.

As we scanned for the waterbirds (the Wattled crane being one of our favourites, not least because of its vulnerable conservation status), it was always worth casting an eye on what we might find beneath the water. More than 20 crocodiles have been regularly seen in and out of the water at Halfway Pan, and if that doesn’t get the blood racing, we also came across a five-metre rock python leisurely crossing the road. That is approximately 90kg of snake!

Our dedicated guides located the new den of a leopardess after tracking the animal. Black-backed jackals sounded the alarm and we found her moving through the bushes, returning to a warthog kill. After feeding, she returned to her thirsty cubs.

Lagoon Camp Botswana

The elephants passed through Lagoon Camp in large numbers this month, enjoying access to the river. They have also been crossing the river to the various islands that form in the Kwando River flood, and it was always a privilege to quietly watch them from the boat or room porch as they fed on the aquatic grasses and cool off in the heat of the day.

Caracal acrobatics

From the large, we’d like to draw attention to the small. A Porcupine has been frequenting camp, as have a couple of honey badgers. Instantly recognisable by its ear tufts, the wonderful Caracal made several appearances. While they can hunt and take down prey up to the size of small antelopes, their aerial skills need to be seen to be believed. They have a fantastic ability to hunt birds in flight, often jumping up to three metres to take birds on the wing. This talent also extends to their ability to twist and change direction mid-air.

The night sky was also marvellous this May with prominent constellations crisply outlined by the star. Southern Cross, Scorpio, and Sagittarius were visible. We had a good view of Jupiter, Venus, and Mars in the morning sky on the eastern side.

(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!)

Lagoon

Lagoon Camp, April 2022

The Aardwolf sightings have been incredible around Mabala-a-Matlotse and Mosheshe areas! Bat-eared foxes, Yellow, Dwarf, Banded and White-tailed mongooses, and Civets, genets and Porcupines all seemed to favour the insect-rich area too.

The Holy Pride had split up for a while, but the lions located each other this month again. Once, we tracked the pride to Grass Pan and found the leftover carcass of a Blue wildebeest, where we also identified the tracks of more lions. These belonged to the three northern boys, who had chased the Holy Pride off their kill. The Holy Pride were otherwise successful, and we frequently encountered them feeding on zebra and Red lechwes. 

Lion Sighting Lebala Camp

We also uncovered the Mma Dikolobe pride. They had been pushed over to the Lebala side of the Kwando Private Reserve by these same Northern Boys, which come from the Rra Leitho Coalition. The Mma Mosetlha pride was not often seen, but we did come across them once at the airstrip, and one appeared to be lactating, which is a sure indicator of cubs stashed somewhere. 

A mother leopard and her two cubs were spotted in different places, but often on male impala carcasses that the female favours. We also located another heavily pregnant leopard busy chasing away a subadult female and a big male leopard that was also repeatedly seen. 

The Spotted hyenas were busy this April and captured many kills from other animals. We found four of them feeding an impala killed by cheetahs, seven finishing an antelope felled by a leopard, and countless animals moved in and out of the carcass of a hippo, which lost its life in a territorial dispute. The male hippo had a deep wound on its chest before it died, which took three long days where it stayed totally out of the water. 

The resident pack of wild dogs was found hunting along the airstrip areas but they were unsuccessful in landing a meal. We also found that one of the nine dogs is missing and counted just five subadults, one adult plus the alpha pair. They were seen again on Main Road feeding on a male Red lechwe and several times throughout the month in search of prey. 

Lebala Camp Cheetah Territory

The two cheetah brothers marked their posts and actively sniffed out their territory before completing their circuit beyond our boundaries. Cheetahs will leave calling cards on prominent landmarks, such as termite mounds and big trees to tell other males that they were in the area. Being able to assess these markings for freshness also helps inform our guides where to look for the cheetah next!

Pearl-spotted owlets, Brown snake-eagles, Ostriches, Wattled cranes, and Ground hornbills were commonly seen out on the game drives along with zebra, Hippo, Sable, Eland and Kudus, among many other antelopes species as well as different breeding herds of elephants. 

Sublime autumn stargazing

The night sky has been incredible because we have experienced fewer cloudy skies as we move closer to winter. Most trees and grasses have slowly started to lose their colours as we start the day off in colder mornings. The Milky Way was crystal clear, and guests could identify several constellations lying in our galaxy. The early mornings were even more ideal because we could watch the planets around the fire with coffee in hand. After all, they are typically the last night lights to peter out, and we watched as Venus and Jupiter grew closer together every day. Mars and Saturn, on the other hand, widened their gap from the rest.

(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!)

Lagoon

Lagoon Camp, March 2022

The Lagoon Camp landscape was just glorious this March. Most trees and grasses still wore a summer uniform, but some areas have started losing their colours as autumn approaches. Happily, the Wild jasmine was still in flower together with the Ruspolia plant, which decorated the camp area in a handsome coat of red. Sunrise and sunset likewise gifted us with ruby hues. Once the sun disappeared, our night sky was fantastic on cloudless nights. Our guides noticed five planets lined up in a parade consisting of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn on several evenings.

Stargazing Lagoon Camp

One morning drive, Springhares entertained guests by fighting for dominance, a spectacle that lasted over 30 minutes. These crazy-looking creatures live in burrows and dig impressive warrens. Speaking of diggers, the dung beetles were still rolling their balls of dung, often with a mate catching a lift on the mound before her egg-laying duties commenced at the ideal excavation site. Bat-eared foxes were also seen foraging in different areas of the Kwando Private Reserve.

One night, we found a medium-sized python moving between room one and the main area of Lagoon Camp. A baby crocodile was also seen several times along the log underneath the deck by the boat station. Water monitor lizards often frequented this area too.

Lion prides and leopards in Leadwoods

We located two dominant lion prides (Mmadikolobe and the Holy Pride), but we have been lucky with sightings of the Mma Mosetlha pride, which comprises two lionesses, and the three Rra Leitho coalition too. One of these three male lions wears a collar. We watched 14 Black-backed jackals trying to steal scraps at one kill made by one of these impressive male lions! One evening during the night drive, we found the male with the collar from the Rra Leitho coalition, and he was bleeding around the right eye after a fight with the dominant males from the Rra Bogale coalition.

On another night safari, we came across a female leopard hunting along Rex Road. Porcupines and civets were also commonly seen during the evening activity.

A mother leopard of two cubs perched up on a Leadwood tree by the Firewood-Rakgolo junction, full-bellied and we later saw this female teaching her cubs to hunt an impala. Comically, they had very little success.  

We also came across a Brown hyena this month! It was very relaxed, walking along Makudi road before disappearing into a hole. We visited again to check if it was perhaps a den site, but there were no further signs of inhabitation. On another day, guides noticed many vultures and investigated to find a lone Spotted hyena feeding on a kudu carcass.

The resident pack of Wild dogs numbering nine was seen hunting. On another occasion, the team picked up the tracks of three dogs running around Grass Pan before disappearing into the thick bush. The next day they were seen at Giraffe Pan and identified as the resident Lebala Pack.

Fresh cheetah tracks gave us the run around for a few days. We spent about a week following the tracks and signs without a sighting until one afternoon proved fruitful. We spotted the two brothers on the move and followed them to a termite mound, where they spotted a Red lechwe. They stalked it over the next hour but failed to land the meal. We kept with them until they eventually managed to kill a female Red lechwe.

There have been excellent sightings of the general game, including enormous herds of Plains zebra numbering over a hundred in size. Breeding herds of elephants were also sighted on many occasions, and guests were delighted to see the Red lechwe leaping across the waters with a photographic splash. Lechwe are the most aquatic antelope after the Sitatunga and can feed in water up to their bellies (if they deem it safe from crocodiles). Roan and Sable antelopes were also witnessed, and we have been lucky with several Eland sightings.

Banded, Dwarf and Slender mongooses all made an appearance this month, and we once found a Black mamba halfway through its meal of an Emerald spotted wood dove on Rex Road.

Ground Hornbill Botswana

Most migrant birds were still around, including European, Carmine and Blue-cheeked bee-eaters, Broad-billed rollers, Woodland kingfishers, Jacobin cuckoos and Amur falcons. Ostriches, Wattled cranes and Ground hornbills were logged too.

(Note: 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!)

Lagoon

Lagoon Camp, February 2022

Jackal berry and towering Fig trees have been bursting with berries. There are two motivations for how the Jackal berry earned its name. Number one is that the seeds from the tasty fruit have been seen in jackal droppings, but we prefer the second. They say that the berries are often not very visible. They are wily and elusive, like the fabled animal that often features in African folklore. Fruits from both trees provide nutrition for an array of species. This month, they attracted the parrot-coloured Green pigeons and noisy Grey go-away birds and squirrels. We have yet to see the jackal eat them, though.

Speaking of trees, our sharp-eyed team spotted a Green spotted bush snake near the central area going up a tree, and we saw a Boomslang between the kitchen and the dining area.

Lagoon Sightings Report-2

Most of the termite mounds have bred big fungus umbrellas and these mushrooms sure gained the attention of baboons and monkeys. These impressive mushrooms can also be eaten by humans and can form a remarkable diameter up to 50 centimetres long. Other insects logged this month include the shapely Rhino beetle, several dung beetles, the harvester termites and the gorgeous African monarch butterfly.

General game along the flood plains included lots of waterbucks, dazzles of zebras, Red lechwes, and we often encountered elephants along the river drinking water as well as mating pairs of Wattled cranes. We also appreciated the sighting of a big herd of Eland.

Two lionesses with six cubs were spotted at Giraffe Pan feeding on an Eland carcass. We later found a different group of four lions had landed another Eland and were enjoying the spoils of a rather enormous feast. A pride of 14 lions was seen frequently, once at hunting at Grass Pan and then on the Main Road hunting close to the river.

Lagoon Sightings Report

Two cheetah brothers were located at Water Cut Road with full bellies and the resident pack of ten wild dogs (four adults and six subadults) lay near Lebengula Road with full bellies of their own. We later found this pack minus a member, and we sadly discovered the animal dead, with what looked like a savage bite mark on the head.

Leopard activity included a male feeding on warthog on the ground while a female leopard lay upon a tree nearby. We also located a female leopard with a cub along James Road and later on Rakgolo road. This female also enjoyed an impala kill, which it stashed safely into a tree for stress-free feeding.  

Lots of springhares and the small bushbabies jumped across our spotlight on night drives, and we had an opportunity to watch the Black-backed jackals from close quarters. The night sky was outstanding, too, and we could see the most prominent constellations such as Taurus, Canis Minor, Canis Major, and Orion. Autumn is undoubtedly on its way because Scorpio was just visible on the eastern side very early in the morning.

(Note: 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!)

Lagoon

Lagoon Camp, January 2022

Lagoon Camp Summer Sightings

Bat-eared foxes have had a brilliant time feeding on all the termites early in the morning and late afternoon. We’ve loved seeing these insectivores active thanks to the cooler rain-induced temperatures. 

On Maheke Road, we came across an impressive dazzle of zebra, and we estimated there must have been over 200. They formed a herd together with 20 Eland antelopes. We also came across a newborn zebra foal on Pangolin Road. It took precious time for the foal to gain its balance, and it wobbled around for over twenty minutes, but some fifty zebras stood nearby to ensure its safety. The general game along the flood plains has been rich with elephant breeding herds, elands, tsessebe and lots of Red lechwe. 

Wonderful Walking Safaris

We enjoyed such varied and diverse nature walks. Thanks to the insect activity, there was plenty to inspect, such as the Harvester termites and Matebele ants. We also saw many dung beetles pushing their big dung balls, which always look so comically enormous compared to the beetle’s diminutive body size. The tracks of different animal species were easily seen after the good rain, and we could safely approach elephants up to about 500 metres. Other animals sighted included Blue wildebeests and some Black-backed jackals. 

Fig trees and Jackal berry trees have burst with fruit, which has attracted Green pigeons, Grey go-away birds, and jackals. Most of the termite moulds also have mushrooms that gain baboons and monkeys’ attention.

Despite cloud cover on some nights, the sky was beautiful. The most prominent constellations were Taurus, Canis Minor, Canis Major and Orion. Very early in the morning, Scorpio was visible on the eastern side.

Brilliant Boating During January

During boat cruises, we noticed that the Kwando River had risen. It was also amazing to see the Red lechwe jumping across and splashing through the water. Wattled cranes have been seen several times along the river and other aquatic birds such as White-faced whistling ducks, Goliath herons, Black herons, and Dwarf bitterns.

At Halfway Pan, we always saw more than twenty crocodiles outside the water basking in the sun. One day, a small crocodile tried to grab a Spotted bush snake close to the boat in camp, but the small snake escaped. We often saw the Water striders and Water scorpions running on the water getting small insects such as the mosquitos during the boat cruises. 

Two lionesses with their six cubs were found along Diolo road feeding on the eland carcass, which guides estimate to have been killed early that morning. Four lionesses from Mmamosetlha pride were seen at Giraffe Pan. The considerable pride of 14 (commonly known as Mmadikolobe) was found at Water Cut lying down well-fed after feasting on a zebra. The mating pair was then seen at Kwena Lagoon for three consecutive days. 

There is a resident pack of 10 wild dogs that comprises four adults and six subadults. We often followed them hunting and witnessed them kill impalas and warthogs. 

One day, we saw a female leopard resting upon the tree along Maheke Road and on a leopardess sitting on the termite mound along Zebra Road. We tracked a leopardess with her two cubs along James Road, finding them with an impala carcass. They remained there for two days, as did the Spotted hyenas and Black-backed jackals who hung out on the periphery waiting for leftovers. 

One Spotted hyena was seen patrolling at Muddy Waters, but we heard them almost every night from camp. We saw lots of springhares and Lesser bushbabies during the night game drives with the spotlight. There have been great sightings of Small spotted genets hunting long James Road, and we also had the fantastic opportunity to watch the Black-backed jackals with their litter of four six-month-old puppies on the road connecting Zebra Pan and Grass Pan.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Lagoon

Lagoon Camp, December 2021

Cheetah Lagoon Camp

The area was exquisite this month. After lashings of rain, the vegetation was so green that we could almost taste the fresh smell of Northern Botswana’s beautiful flowers, such as the large Devil thorn, purple Common Barleria, and Wandering jew (Commelina benghalensis).  

Many of the natural waterholes were filled and refreshed from the rain. Driving in the afternoon, we could often hear the pleasing sounds of different frog species, such as the reed frogs and the bubbling kassina. Many leopard tortoises were seen during all game drives as they nibbled on plentiful fresh grass. However, we experienced low elephant numbers in the area. When good rains fill the natural water holes, they tend to linger in the Mopane woodlands.

During nature walks, we had time to appreciate the smaller summer creatures. Scarlet in colour, the velvet mites often emerged following afternoon showers, tok tokkies tapped the ground to attract their mates and baboon spiders sat upon their burrows, a simple hole covered with the newly-spun web. Harvester termites busily made hay with the sun shining and tucked grass into their hollows. Some of these termites were eaten by birds. We’ve noticed they are a favourite snack for Lilac-breasted rollers. It was amazing how we could approach animals on foot, such as zebras and wildebeest. Under correct conditions, we could often safely get as close as 40 meters before animals recognised our presence. The walking range was wonderfully productive and presented the opportunity to share our tracking techniques. Lagoon Camp guests saw the fresh paw prints of black-backed jackals, spotted hyenas, impalas, zebras, and many bird species. Did you know the hornbill hops about for insects leaving a banana-shaped imprint?

The resident coalition of two cheetah brothers was found on the road joining Cutline Road and Alison road, with full bellies. We tracked them again the following day and found them along Maheke Road on the hunt. After spending a morning with them, we left them sleeping.

There have been great sightings of different lion prides in the Lagoon area. We tracked the pride of 13 for about an hour and found them at Muddy Waters feeding on a wildebeest carcass. The Northern Pride (three males and one lioness) was seen at Second Lagoon heading north. Two lionesses with their six cubs were found several times around Grass Pan area, as they were lots of prey species around, such as impalas and zebra.

Guides followed the tracks of the resident pack of 12 wild dogs through the month, noting how they often disappeared into thick bushes. The pack was trying to avoid contact with the lions, which have called every night. One day, we found them crossing the runway and had a fantastic time viewing them in the open.

We also had an incredible sighting of an African rock python close to the airstrip. James located the giant snake as he saw something shining in the summer sun. We followed it as it was crawling slowly toward the runway. Spotted bush snakes were also seen. One even feeding on a house gecko!

A leopardess was seen at Firewood Pan on the hunt, and we followed her several unsuccessful hunting attempts, leaving her when she settled into a Sausage tree. Fresh male leopard tracks led from Second Lagoon north toward Kwena Lagoon, and we followed them until francolin alarm calls sounded. We found him on an impala carcass.

There have been frequent sightings of the rare roan and sable antelope. Many antelopes were accompanied by their young ones this month: impalas, tsessebe, waterbuck and reedbuck all gave birth.

Birdlife was impressive. Plenty of aquatic bird sightings included African fish eagles, wattled cranes, reed cormorants and heron species such as the Goliath, Purple, Grey and Black-crowned night herons. The resident scops and African barred owlets were often located hiding on the trees around the central area, waiting for the sun to set so that they could feed. One evening, a few Peters’s epauletted fruit bats perched low enough for us to observe easily. It was great to see the source of the standard evening call that rings through camp.

Night skies were stunning for stargazing because most of the Southern Hemisphere’s prominent constellations were visible. The brightest star in the entire sky, Sirius from the Canis Major constellation, was seen clearly. The Orion constellation, known as the hunter, also shone brightly on cloudless nights, together with Taurus.

(Note: Accompanying picture is from our Kwando Photo Library which consists of all your great photo submissions over the years, it may not be the most up to date, but we felt it was worthy of a feature alongside this month’s Sightings Report!)

Lagoon

Lagoon Camp, August 2021

Why do wild dogs time their denning to sync with the end of the impala rut or breeding season? Some researchers think that at this time of the year, there are plenty of stressed-out rams in poor condition that make easy prey targets. At least, the sightings coming in from the Kwando Private Reserve certainly reinforce this hypothesis.

“A very successful morning!” KB reported. “We managed to follow wild dogs on the hunt closely and caught them dropping an impala”.

After a few days of confrontation and uneasy interactions with other animals, we kept a close eye on this pack. We observed them digging around in some different abandoned holes, trying to find a suitable and stress-free new den. Wild dogs make use of old aardvark burrows and line the cavity with grass and leaves to make it more homely. Six adults were then seen soon afterwards moving five of the pups – sad news because we believed the dogs had lost two pups! 

With a new wild dog den active, our guests loved seeing the pups playing around while the adults went out to hunt. One day, waiting to watch their cute antics paid off. The adult dogs returned with full bellies after a successful kill to regurgitate and feed the young. “A smile came back on our faces”, KB said, “because when the parents came back, all seven puppies came out of the new den!”. Guides had found two pups on their own at the old den and believed that the mother would come to get them, so it seems this happened. Trackers then followed the adults back to their kill, where they were seen feeding on an impala.  

We were able to visit these frolicking pups and their new den several times. On another occasion, a commotion broke out in the bushes. Three spotted hyenas had found the wild dogs as they attempted to hunt, thwarting any chance of dinner for the den that day.

One morning, trackers followed fresh lion tracks, and they led to some carcasses caused by the wild dogs. “It was very interesting to watch”, KB reported. “We saw 14 lions scrambling over very few leftovers”.

This considerable pride was seen frequently through August. They preferred to lie in the shade of Kalahari Apple Leaf trees and were skilled at finding food because they were often noted with full bellies.

Guests were thrilled to see the pride taking down a buffalo, and succeeding that, two of the lions and five cubs were seen feeding on a zebra. Another morning, the pride was located on Cheetah Valley Road, resting once again with well-stocked stomachs. When we returned in the afternoon, they set off to hunt as dusk darkened the day. We followed the group through the evening, but they had no luck in landing prey. Perhaps that’s why they sometimes resorted to wild dog scraps!

A leopard was seen with her cub resting up in a tree. The leopard mother often moved off to hunt, leaving her young behind stashed safely in the foliage. Later that evening, she was located again near Firewood Pan and came very close in her chase of an impala. One day, two additional leopards were seen fighting for territory in an impressive display, but they disappeared into the thickets before resolving the issue.

The general game was great. We recorded substantial numbers of eland, with some herds numbering over a hundred, and they were very relaxed, affording fantastic views for our guests. One day we tracked two adult cheetahs resting on a termite mound. When they moved off to hunt, the cats followed once such sizeable herd of eland, but they were not successful in killing any. Both the handsome Roan and statuesque Sable antelope were sighted too.

Unusually, we saw several typically nocturnal species during the day. Cooler weather conditions often yield this type of behaviour. African civet, African wild cat and porcupine were all seen before the sun set. The porcupine lingered for ages and drank fitfully from the waterhole. We were also very pleased to catch sight of a caracal this month! 

Lagoon

Lagoon Camp, June-July 2021

We are so pleased to share that a pack of African wild dogs successfully denned with a busy litter of 9 puppies! Kwando Safaris guides have been following the action closely.

Spencer reports that there are actually two dens. “Just 60 metres apart! The main den, where the Alpha female is often visible at the entrance is more active than the Beta female as she spends a lot of time indoors due to being dominated. She also tends to be fed less. At some point, she decided to join the hunt in the afternoon because she wasn’t being fed by the pack. They successfully killed a male kudu some 150 meters west of the den and stashed the kill in thick vegetation, devoured the meal over several days with the vultures hanging close by. The White-backed vultures constitute the largest percentage of the vulture species seen, but Hooded vultures help to give away carcasses and kills. The Lappet-faced vultures and the White-headed on rare occasions also grace our sightings”.

Meanwhile, the resident lion pride at Lagoon (the Holy pride) has been located several times this winter. The Holy pride has 10 cubs grown up to about almost a year. Then there are also two lionesses with seven more cubs of about two months old. They have been moving a lot to keep the little ones safe and the lionesses have been hunting during the day, mostly along the shores in Muddy Waters. There has been plenty of plains game. We saw lots of Red lechwes as our seasonal flood plains had been rejuvenated with the floodwaters, as well as waterbuck and reedbucks. The other pride (Mmamosetha pride) had been very active in and around the camp periphery almost every day with yet another coalition of three males occupying the territory north and west of Lagoon camp providing great sightings along with their pals, the hyena.

Hyena have been spotted on many occasions, either at the remains of the kills (zebra, in particular, the guides have noted) or on patrol. Spencer says, “We counted about 12 (if not more) having responded to one lion kill, but they were unsuccessful at intimidating the pride. The Mmamosetha pride has about six sub-adult males, which is why they so successfully defend their kills”.

In contrast, the cheetahs are reportedly feeding at midday. We have had good sightings of the three young cheetahs, aged 18 months (two males and their sister) hunting. On all occasions, they successfully killed an impala. They have slowly been moving north and are now close to camp (or literally in camp sometimes!)

Speaking of camp. There has also been a gorgeous leopardess with a cub of about six months visiting the area. One exciting evening, she made a kill just 200 meters from the camp and they dined on the steenbok for days, regularly moving to and from the lagoon to drink.