Nxai Pan

Nxai Pan Camp, March 2022

Things to do Nxai Pan

On a rather memorable day trip to Baines’ Baobabs, we came across a handsome male leopard walking along the road. It veered off and disappeared into the long grass, but to our great fortune, we found a female leopard resting in the shade on our way back. We approached slowly, and she got up to walk along the road, much like the male had. We followed her until she spotted a steenbok, which she then successfully stalked and killed! 

The territory of a Steenbok is relatively tiny, so we come across many in the park. This petite antelope typically covers its dung, which is unusual for antelope, but a clever little defensive tactic it uses to prevent predators from sniffing out their homes. Unless, of course, a hungry leopard comes strolling past.

Nxai Pan zebra migration update

Zebra Migration Nxai Pan

Nxai Pan has been incredibly productive for hungry herbivores. The site was exceptionally green, lush and sticky with mud. The Dropseed grass grew tall and puffed up (“Like someone who went to the salon!” Kwando Safaris guide Alex expressed). We saw Gemsbok, enormous gatherings of Springbok, Red hartebeest, small groups of kudu and the Plains zebra migration was still underway. However, the zebra numbers have gradually dwindled as they start to resume their journey south. One day, we encountered thirty giraffes in a single concentration along Baobab Loop road.

Predators of the pans

Two male cheetahs were spotted walking along the middle road heading south just after sunset one evening, their silhouettes unmistakable in the vanishing light. They seemed skittish and aborted the hunt. We later found lions active in the area and heard their gravelly roars close to camp that night. The following day, the male cheetah was found hunting springbok, but with no success.

The Nxai Pan pride of 11 lions was frequently seen (and often on a zebra kill) throughout March. Mid-month, we came across a mating pair of lions along West Road. It was interesting because the male lion was not part of Nxai Pan Pride. One afternoon, the sudden descent of circling White-backed vultures drew observant guides to Baobab Loop road, where they found eight of the Nxai Pan pride on a sub-adult zebra kill.

We briefly saw a single adult female spotted hyena this month, but it quickly disappeared into the bushes. We also saw Africa’s smallest hyena, the Aardwolf, along Middle Road, being chased by Black-backed jackals. Black-backed jackals were seen daily, and we frequently found families of Bat-eared foxes nestled into the base of termite mounds attempting to hide in the long grass, only to be betrayed by their satellite ears.

Summer birding and Baines’ Baobabs

Kori bustards also strutted their stuff on these plains and we particularly enjoyed watching a Pale chanting goshawk feeding on a Ground agama. Black-shouldered kites, Brown snake eagle, Black-chested snake eagle and Steppe buzzards soared the skies while Rattling cisticolas, Yellow canaries, and Crimson-breasted shrikes bounced about in the branches of the Umbrella thorn acacia trees. Blue checked bee-eaters and Swallow-tailed bee-eaters were often seen hawking from the roadside on our trips to Baines’ Baobabs. The pans in front of these iconic trees are full of water. Sometimes we come across big elephant bulls seeking shade below the other trees nearby, and we saw Lesser flamingos feeding in the water.

African Monarch Nxai Pan

There were many puddles and pans around the park, so we were flush with insect life and noticed a kaleidoscope of butterflies, including the Yellow pansy, African joker, African monarch, Zebra white and Broad-bordered yellow grass butterfly. Giant jewel beetles and tok-tokkie beetles have also enjoyed the prime conditions. One sweltering day,  a Leopard tortoise took advantage of the conditions and enjoyed a mud bath. We also came across a bright green Flap-necked chameleon on the road. 

To our surprise, cattle came to visit the Nxai Pan Camp waterhole one day and drank alongside the zebra and wildebeest. We called the wildlife authority to alert them.

Nxai Pan

Nxai Pan Camp, February 2022

Lion sightings were fantastic in Nxai Pan National Park. We saw the Nxai Pan Pride of eleven (five sub-adult males and two sub-adult females, two adult females and two adult males) several times, and they appeared to dominate the territory at first. One day vultures perched conspicuously on a tree led us to the pride on the kill of a fully-grown zebra, while other days, the lions came to us. The Nxai Pan pride visited the waterhole in front of the camp and made themselves very comfortable. 

Nxai Pan Camp Summer

Early one morning, we saw the five sub-adults passing through Nxai Pan Camp at a run. They were being chased away by two other dominant males that were not part of the pride. We had heard lions roaring all around camp the evening before. One of the younger males in the Nxai Pan pride came off second-best and was severely injured, struggling to walk, but the other sub-adult escorted him closely to ensure safety.

These two dominant males were then seen across the salt flats of Kudiakam Pan, heading south of the reserve after the battle. There were other sightings of four sub-adult females with two males around this area where Baines’ baobabs stand sentry over the waterlogged salt pan. On one day trip to the trees, we surprised a Mozambique spitting cobra sunbathing on the road. 

Hyenas, honey badgers and breeding herds

We enjoyed seeing a clan of six Spotted hyenas at the camp waterhole during breakfast, which was hardly surprising given all the recent action! We had big breeding herds of elephants and the usual lone bull elephants drinking there regularly. The grass across the park was green but kept short by the myriad mammals mowing the lawns. Sitting on the deck, we surveyed many of these herbivores at work. Dazzles of zebras, big herds of Springboks, Impalas, Kudus, Steenboks, wildebeest, Oryx, hartebeest, warthogs and some buffaloes too.  

Zebra Migration Summer

Early morning drives proved productive for Scrub hares, Side-striped jackals, plus Small spotted genet, African wild cat, Banded mongoose and Honey badger sightings. 

There were still plenty of puddles and pans holding rainwater. These have become home to the Water scorpion and other aquatic bugs. At the same time, the Giant jewel beetle, Brown-veined white butterflies and Guinea fowl butterflies made hay of the ample nectar offerings provided by all the blooms. The Poison apple, Fireball lily and Wandering jew were all in flower, as were the Common cork wood and the Trumpet thorn.  

Birdlife has likewise blossomed with the bevvy of migratory birds still swopping about the skies. The Common buzzard, Montagu’s harrier, Greater kestrel and Lanner falcon were noteworthy additions to the raptor list. At the same time, waters swelled with species, too, thanks to the presence of Black-headed herons, Yellow-billed storks, African spoonbills and the African snipe.

(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!)

Nxai Pan

Nxai Pan Camp, January 2022

Nxai Pan Summer

There was lots of lion activity at Nxai Pan this month. On a day trip to Baines’ Baobabs, Kwando guides came across a tower of giraffes, and all were looking in one direction, which can sometimes indicate predators nearby. Following this instinct, guides detected the Nxai Pan pride of 11 lions settled around the kill of male kudu. 

One dominant male was located east of Nxai Pan Camp, heading to the waterhole, and guests followed it in a vehicle. However, a few minutes later, a big herd of elephants disrupted its peaceful drink, chasing the lion until he eventually disappeared into the bushes.  

Two male lions were also seen at the other waterhole in the south, and the following morning we came across the Nxai Pan pride loping across the flourishing grasslands east of West Road. 

We did not see any leopard this month, but we did come across fresh tracks on the road to Baines’ Baobabs. Likewise, we didn’t have any cheetah sightings, and we only heard Spotted hyenas when they called during dinner time. We did notice an increase in reptile activity, however. We surprised a Black mamba basking in the sun on the side of the road to Baines’ Baobab and caught sight of a golden Cape cobra crossing the road. Guides also clocked a beautiful Boomslang on the West Road,  following it until it vanished into the tall grass.

A blossom of butterflies

Insect life thrived this month thanks to the plentiful pools of rainwater. There were pond skaters in the natural waterholes,  crickets and Tok-tokkie beetles scampered through the fields alongside the busy dung beetles that had to clean up after all the Plains zebra now milling about. We’ve been blessed with an abundance of butterflies too. Brown-veined white butterflies, Broad-bordered yellow grass and African monarch butterflies have been noted this month. 

Flowers have blossomed too, including Flannel weed, Jackal food, brightly coloured Flame lily and Cats tail. 

Zebra migration update

Kwando Safaris guide Matt reported, “An outstanding migration of zebras has arrived. The area is green everywhere, and we saw many animals in the pans with their young”. Nxai Pan has had excellent general game, and herbivores sighted include the jubilant springboks, gemsbok, red hartbeest, wildebeest, small groups kudu and large groups of giraffe, sometimes numbering 30 individuals in a group. 

Guests loved seeing the Bat-eared foxes with their two cubs. They had created a burrow at the side of a termite mound close to the road. We also located an aardwolf, and a Honey badger visited the camp behind the kitchen near the water tanks. Scrub hare and Black-backed jackal were seen regularly on early morning drives. 

Migratory birds such as the Steppe buzzard, European and Blue-cheeked bee-eater, European roller, Greater snipe, Barn swallow and Denhams Busard were all seen across the skies. We also enjoyed watching a Black-chested snake eagle feeding on a Striped skink and Tawny eagles feeding on termites. Birding became action-packed one day when we found a White-backed vulture fighting a Lappet-faced vulture over an elephant carcass.

(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!)

Nxai Pan

Nxai Pan Camp, December 2021

The biggest show at Nxai Pan National Park has begun! The zebra numbers started climbing towards the end of the month in what will soon culminate as the second largest migration in Africa when these animals move south from the Savute area to make the most of our luscious landscapes.  

Every day our guides noted the zebra numbers improved, but they were not the only plains game that moved in to enjoy the feast of fresh grass. Many animals resettled to these pans and plains during December, including large herds of wildebeest. One day, we encountered a Black-backed jackal feeding on something that looked like a placenta. On another occasion, we located a zebra foal carcass on West Road, which looked like the tidy remains of a cheetah kill. Two Black-backed jackals were seen feeding on it, but interestingly, no raptors were noted in the area. 

Springboks were seen during every game drive, often nursing their lambs, but our guides on the ground noticed that the Blue wildebeest hadn’t dropped their calves just yet. As always, the waterhole in front of the camp was incredibly active. Breeding elephant herds, buffalo, giraffes, impala, and springbok all stopped past for a drink in the midday heat. 

With the presence of all the young animals, predators were never far behind. As guests had breakfast one morning, our guides heard a lion calling from an easterly direction. They soon located the solitary animal walking along the road as he roared. We followed it for some time, and although it seemed hungry, none of the nearby zebras interested him. We also noticed a tower of giraffes and a few ostriches in the area during this pursuit. Another day, we tracked a pride of eleven lions to West Road, feeding on a giraffe.

Being our rainy season, one afternoon, the clouds gathered into an impressive storm and buckets of rain transformed the camp. Bullfrogs hollered from newly-formed ponds and the central area enjoyed the acoustics of all the thrilled ephemeral insects enjoying renewed waters. Botswana becomes a photographer’s paradise in the green season, and we loved being able to get close to all the frogs! 

Three Grey crowned cranes were also seen at the waterhole in front of camp. Standing rather regally at over a metre high, we never take these sightings for granted as they are an endangered species. We also couldn’t help but wonder how many times they have visited before. Did you know? They can live for up to 22 years in the wild. Furthermore, these clever cranes co-opt with large herbivores (like our blossoming zebra herds) who flush out insects as they walk. 

Meanwhile, two White-headed and a hooded vulture were seen soaring the thermals while the Tawny eagles were ever-present. There was also a fabulous sighting of a pair of Verreaux’s eagle owl spot sitting in a big Purple pod Terminalia tree on the road to the airstrip. 

During a morning drive to Baines Baobabs, there was plenty of general game to be seen. We were beyond pleased to discover two breeding birds making use of the trees on arrival: a pair of pied crows roosting up high plus Southern yellow-billed hornbills nesting in the trunk of the famous sleeping baobab.

Nxai Pan

Nxai Pan Camp, August 2021

Nxai Pan Sightings Report

As we approach spring, some trees and plants start to flower again in a resilient reminder of the renewal that follows winter. However, August is still a season of survival.

Kwando Safaris guide Matt shares the story of Black-backed jackals on the hunt. These animals are bold scavengers, always circling on the sidelines of lion kills and cheetah snatches. However, they are capable hunters too and vital – ecologically speaking – for removing injured and sick animals from the bush.  One pair was seen hunting Helmeted guineafowls around a waterhole with their two subadult pups. Sadly, their attempts at a catch were thwarted by a Martial eagle that flew overhead, which caused the ground birds to scatter back to safety.

Matt also reported regular sightings of Aardwolf. These ‘Earth wolfs’ are typically nocturnal and somewhat secretive. It’s been a pleasure to see them rearing their young at a den near the camp! They seem to enjoy basking in the sun just in front of the entrance to their burrow.

One lonely lesser flamingo was seen in the Baines’ Baobabs area. Every year, these birds stop to use the water that collects across the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans network as breeding sites on their regular migrant routes. There was also plenty of general game along the road leading to Baines’ Baobabs. Springbok, Gemsbok, Greater kudu, Plains Zebra and Blue wildebeest were all spotted in the golden grasslands.

All the shallow pans dried up near the end of winter, and animals navigated towards permanent water sources. A large number of elephants (particularly breeding herds) regularly frequented the waterhole in front of the camp. Other prey species try to get in for a drink too, but the hefty animals don’t permit them much chance! We’ve checked off buffalo, zebra and Bat-eared foxes plus Black-backed jackal roaming the area.

When the elephants are absent, it pays to keep those eyes peeled. A pride of ten lions were seen drinking by the camp waterhole one morning. The group consisted of three adults with seven teenage cubs. At another waterhole on the eastern fringe of the Nxai Pan National Park, guides became alert to a Black-backed jackal making an alarm call. Upon driving in the direction of the eerie noise, they encountered two male lions walking through the bush.

Although it may not constitute the ‘kill’ of an imagined safari, it was fascinating to see a Rock monitor lizard walking along the Middle Road one morning. It was cruising along, keeping to shade and licking up ants as he went.  

(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!)

Nxai Pan

Nxai Pan Camp, June-July 2021

As if they aren’t cute enough as adults, aardwolf cubs were a particularly special sighting this winter. On the West Road, Kwando Safaris guides located an aardwolf den just metres from the dirt track and one day four of the adults laid basking in the sunshine just at the entrance.

Thanks to good rains this year, there is still a bit of surface water lying around for the game. Plenty of Black-backed jackals were seen scoping these pans, some trying desperately to catch Helmeted guineafowl for dinner.

One day on the way to Baines’ Baobabs (plenty of Oryx and Steenbok logged during the drive) guides reported tracks of both lion and wild dog. The team did a few day trips and often arrived at the historical site to a welcoming committee of Lesser flamingoes flocked across the waterlogged salt pans. However, these seem to be drying fast, leaving us with a caked salt pan crust.

The camp waterhole is always flush with life during this dry season and it’s been a joy to simply watch the animals parade past from the deck. Spotted hyenas were seen drinking water on several occasions and on one particularly hot day, over 100 elephants. These pachyderms were joined by plenty of other plains game species: buffalo, blue wildebeest, plains zebra, the greater kudu and a generous herd of springbok. Under the cover of darkness, the camp also had visits from the Small-spotted genet and lions were vocal in the vicinity.

The birdlife has been great too with plenty of raptor activity, prides of ostrich foraging in the golden grasslands and several sightings of Botswana’s national bird, the scholarly-looking Kori Bustard. Two tall secretary birds were also seen (rather conspicuously) sitting on top of the Umbrella thorn acacia trees, which is their preferred nesting site.

Did you know? This bird has the longest tail in Southern Africa. It measures about 75cm.

(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!)

Nxai Pan Camp, October 2020

ASwan Cat8 Waterhole

As was the norm for the time of year, the main animal sightings in and around camp were elephants, elephants and yet more elephants. Herds up to 300 strong congregated at the camp waterhole. Dominant bulls hogged the precious resource causing a lot of frustration and fighting between the lower-ranked animals.

Plains game, such as impala and springbok, could only watch in thirty desperation as the elephants refused to let them come near. Luckily, they were able to use the Department of Wildlife waterhole to drink.

One very hot afternoon, a lioness with two young cubs came for a drink at the camp waterhole. After drinking, they rested in the shade of an acacia tree. The general game continued to quench their thirst, the need for water driving them despite the presence of a predator. The next day we saw two lionesses with full bellies and blood-spotted faces, we didn’t see the carcass, but when we got back to the waterhole, we found another lioness on the remains of a kudu. It seems that at least one antelope paid the price for reckless drinking in the end. After that, all three lionesses, with their eight cubs, spent the night in camp. They were roaring all night and we could hear a response coming from about two kilometres away.

A pack of eleven wild dogs were seen in camp a few days running. Hyenas also visited the waterhole.

One time we saw an ostrich chasing a jackal to protect its chicks.

(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!)

Nxai Pan Camp, August – September 2020

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As the dry weather continued and temperatures started to rise, the numbers of elephants at the camp waterhole continued to increase daily. We were surprised to see a tuskless elephant amongst the herds. The numbers of elephants grew and grew, to the frustration of other general game species such as zebra and kudu who could do nothing but wait in the dust for a chance to drink. In addition to the elephants, a herd of twelve buffalo frequented the camp waterhole.

A spotted hyena was seen passing between the staff village and the guides’ rooms and later that night we heard lions and spotted hyena calling close to the camp. The camp manager thought that he heard a hyena make a distress call and, sure enough, the following day we found the dead hyena just in front of Room 5. Judging by the tracks, the hyena had been killed by the resident male lion. The following day we did a short walk with the guests to look at the hyena carcass and found it being scavenged by black-backed jackals and pied crows.

One of the resident lionesses was lactating, so we can expect to see new cubs soon.

General game species included zebra, wildebeest, springbok, impala and giraffe.

A family of bat-eared foxes was seen near the pan, and in the same area we saw ostriches and kori bustards. Raptors included pale chanting goshawks and greater kestrels.

(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!)

Nxai Pan, March – July 2020

Nxai Pan SMalan (113)

Big herds of elephants continued to show up at the camp waterhole where they could be seen from the lodge as they drank and mud-bathed. Other animals, such as warthogs, tried to sneak in for a drink, but the elephants were quick to chase them off. Buffalo were also seen drinking from the waterhole, sometimes in herds as large as 200.

Spotted hyenas were also thirsty visitors to the camp waterhole, especially early in the morning, and also ventured inside camp to lap at water dripping from the water tanks.

One night we saw a leopard in camp. Lions could often be heard calling from camp and in April we noticed that one of the Nxai Pan lionesses was lactating, so suspected that she had cubs nearby. Finally, in June, we were delighted to have a sighting of the new cubs for the first time.

One time we found a male cheetah feeding on an ostrich carcass.

Honey badgers were located foraging. Black-backed jackals were spotted trying to catch guinea fowl and also scattering elephant dung to look for beetles. A family of four bat-eared foxes were digging and looking for termites near to the camp.

A very relaxed herd of gemsbok were seen grazing along the road to Baines Baobabs. Giraffe were browsing the thorn trees with young bulls engaged in play-fighting. Springbok were located in the pan area where up to 300 individuals could be viewed pronking and running around in the open space. The majority of the zebra and wildebeest herds left the Nxai Pan area from March onwards as the annual migration departed, although a few remained behind. In June many zebra were seen heading towards the Boteti River to meet the arriving flood waters.

During April there were many butterflies such as acreas and scarlet tips feeding on the flowers of the pincushion veronica.

Relaxed prides of ostrich were located along Middle Road, feeding on the short nutritious pan grasses and we also saw them drinking from the camp waterhole. One time we were lucky enough to witness a male dancing in a mating ritual. A pied avocet was an unusual sighting for Nxai Pan. More commonly viewed species included pale chanting-goshawks, kori bustards, marabou storks, tawny eagles and secretary birds. White-backed and lappet-faced vultures were both in the area. We had an interesting sighting of the male yellow-billed hornbill feeding the female whilst she was nesting inside a tree cavity. During the brooding time the female hornbill loses all her feathers, so is completely reliant on her mate for survival.

(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!)

Nxai Pan, Jan 2020

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As the month progressed the numbers of zebra and wildebeest steadily increased and by the first week of January an estimated 5,000 zebra were in the pan area. Springbok and steenbok were also feeding amongst them. Most of the antelope herds had new-born youngsters, taking advantage of the summer salt pan grasses which produce vital minerals for milk production. Giraffes in numbers up to fifty could be seen browsing on the edges of the pan; guests enjoyed watching two young males sparring with each other by “necking”. Kudu and buffalo appeared at the camp waterhole, whilst oryx were seen towards Baines Baobabs.

The resident Nxai Pan pride were making the most of the migration and were seen feasting on zebra frequently. They were generally found in a group of three lionesses and sometimes accompanied by the male lion. We also saw the male lion on a wildebeest kill. Black-backed jackals and vultures could be seen waiting to finish off the carcasses. Once we witnessed the lionesses being chased by elephants. Sometimes the lions were close to camp and we could hear them calling all night.

Elephants still visited the camp waterhole in large numbers, to the delight of guests who could then enjoy watching the herd interactions from their room or the main area. After heavy rains the elephants dispersed to make the most of the natural waterholes.

Reptiles included rock monitors, leopard tortoises, a black mamba and a puff adder.

This particular green season has produced an abundance of butterflies and moths. Species included the blue pansy, African monarch and scarlet-tip.

We saw black-backed jackals digging out rodents at the pan and also were lucky enough to observe them regurgitating food for their puppies at the wildlife waterhole. Bat-eared foxes were foraging for termites along the open plains.

Birding was great and summer migrants included grey crowned cranes, European bee-eaters, black cuckoos, steppe buzzards and pallid harriers. A pair of yellow-billed kites were observed at their nest as they raised their one chick. Abdim’s storks were plentiful with a flock of over one hundred at the camp waterhole. Water birds that appeared following rain included spoonbills, red-billed teal, little grebes and open-billed storks. Lesser flamingos were seen at the pan near Baines Baobabs.

Resident birds seen included kori bustards, chestnut-vented tit-babblers, double-banded coursers, yellow-throated sandgrouse, secretary birds and northern black korhaans. A pale chanting goshawk was seen feeding on a dove. Ostriches and their chicks were seen in large numbers, sometimes as many as fifty adults in the pan area. Red-crested korhaans were engaged in a mating displays whereby the males fly straight up and then tumble to the ground as though shot.

(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!)