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Category: Tau Pan

Tau Pan Camp, May 2024

A pack of 12 African wild dogs was an exciting find near the camp waterhole early one morning.

They were seen heading east along Carlos Road. A dramatic scene unfolded as three black-backed jackals scavenged on a wild dog carcass, suggesting a lion attack.

Cheetah sightings included two males frequently seen around Tau Pan. One male was often located at marking posts, emphasizing territorial behaviours.

The night skies of Tau Pan Camp in May were a stargazer’s dream. Guests marvelled at constellations like the Southern Cross with its prominent pointers, the red giant star Betelgeuse, and Scorpio with its bright star Antares. The Milky Way, stretching across the sky, offered a stunning view of our galaxy, estimated to contain up to 400 billion stars and be about 13.4 billion years old. A sight that can only be truly appreciated in the vastness of the Kalahari!

A single brown hyena was a regular visitor around the camp waterhole, adding to the diversity of nocturnal sightings.

The lions and leopards of Tau Pan

Early in the month, a solitary male lion was frequently spotted patrolling along the airstrip and western fire roads. The resident Tau Pan pride, consisting of seven lionesses and one male, made several appearances around the camp, often venturing to the airstrip and drinking from the camp’s waterhole. An exciting encounter involved this pride’s male joining another pride to mate, resulting in fascinating behaviour displays.

Tau Pan Lioness

A highlight was observing a pride of four lions at Passarge waterhole, while another pride known as the Airstrip Pride was seen with a gemsbok carcass along Aardvark Road. Additionally, a lioness was often heard roaring near room 1, trying to locate her pride. Towards the end of the month, mating pairs and various prides were seen in strategic hunting positions, although not all hunts were successful.

A female leopard was first spotted along Aardvark Road, actively hunting. Another leopardess was seen resting under a shepherd tree along Carlos Road. One remarkable event involved a leopardess ambushing and successfully killing a scrub hare, while another was observed feeding on a steenbok carcass up a tree. These leopards exhibited their typical stealth and precision, providing guests with unforgettable moments.

Thrills at the waterhole

Drawn by the remaining water sources, May brought an impressive array of general game to Tau Pan Camp. Guests enjoyed sightings of solitary males, breeding herds, and bachelor groups of gemsboks, red hartebeests, springboks, greater kudus, steenboks, bushbuck, southern giraffes, African elephants, and blue wildebeests.

Small mammals, including black-backed jackals, cape ground squirrels, honey badgers, slender and yellow mongooses, scrub hares, and bat-eared foxes, were abundant. Guests also enjoyed sightings of a serval and an African wild cat along Tau Pan.

Central Kalahari Tau Pan

Bird sightings included Kalahari scrub robins, common ostriches, pale chanting and Gabar goshawks, lanner and red-necked falcons, bateleurs, white-backed vultures, pririt batis, southern pied babblers, white-browed sparrow weavers, cape glossy starlings, Kori bustards, northern black and red-crested korhaans, capped wheatears, fawn-coloured and rufous naped larks, violet-eared waxbills, black-chested prinias, scaly-feathered finches, southern yellow-billed and African grey hornbills, zitting cisticolas, Burchell sandgrouses, cape vultures, spotted eagle owls, chestnut-vented tit-babblers, Sabota larks, long-billed crombecs, crimson-breasted shrikes, blue waxbills, and eastern clapper larks.

(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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Tau Pan Camp, February 2024

African wild dogs were found satiated after making a kill. They were seen chasing a red-billed spurfowl, accompanied by a cacophony of bird warning calls. 

Later, they encountered the Airstrip Pride of lions, leading to an intense interaction between the two predator species.

Leopards lay in wait 

While we paused to observe a group of springboks along Phukwi Road, a sudden commotion caught our attention. Within moments, the springboks bolted, engulfing us in a cloud of dust. Puzzled by their sudden departure, we scanned the area and were astonished to spot a female leopard by the side of the vehicle. Witnessing the stealthy movements of this magnificent predator in such close proximity was remarkable! 

Two male lion tracks were discovered along Phukwi Road leading to Passarge Waterhole. Following the tracks, guides anticipated the lions would head to the waterhole and indeed found a female and two large males from the Tau Pan Pride quenching their thirst. Another notable waterhole sighting was seeing a pale chanting goshawk with a small mole snake. 

Gemsbok chase a cheetah

A male cheetah was found resting at Sunday Waterhole. The guides and trackers observed this beautiful animal and anticipated it might attempt to hunt as a group of springbok approached to drink nearby. However, a few gemsbok were already at the waterhole, and warning calls were issued. Then, the group of gemsbok chased the cheetah and disappeared into the bush.

Oryx at Tau Pan Camp

Despite the dry conditions, particularly around Tau Pan and Passage Valley, the Kalahari landscape retained its beauty. While some areas showed signs of dryness, pockets of greenery persisted, especially around the camp. Trees remained verdant, attracting giraffes, although certain species like trumpet thorns and brandy bushes showed signs of drying. 

Gemsboks, springboks, and giraffes were commonly sighted, with wildebeests congregating at San Pan and Passarge Valley due to the relatively lush vegetation. Although brown hyenas were elusive, their tracks were spotted along the roads, indicating their presence in the area. Ground squirrels, yellow mongooses and slender mongooses, bat-eared foxes, black-backed jackals, and occasionally ostriches with chicks were also observed.

Birdwatching in Passarge Valley

Passarge Valley offered excellent birdwatching opportunities, particularly for raptors such as African harrier hawks, black-chested snake eagles, and brown snake eagles. Insect sightings included grasshoppers, ground beetles, giant jewel beetles, African monarch butterflies, and brown-veined butterflies. Near the camp, colourful birds like swallow-tailed bee-eaters and lilac-breasted rollers could be easily photographed snapping at the insects. Violet-eared waxbills were also common.  

Tau Pan Camp room

Come evening, constellations such as the Southern Cross, Musca the Bee, False Cross, Canis Major, and Canis Minor adorned the night sky, and we watched the stunning spectacle seated around the campfire.

(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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Tau Pan Camp, January 2024

The pan has been unusually dry this month. Consequently, we embarked on longer drives from the camp. Despite the uncommon conditions, our epic expeditions had many exciting moments! 

The most memorable? Watching approximately eight black-backed jackals join forces to confront a baby oryx. This young oryx had become separated from its mother due to a bull attempting to mate with her.

Black backed jackals Tau Pan

The jackals persistently tested their luck for about 10 to 15 minutes until the same bull that had chased the mother returned to the rescue. However, the jackals did not easily relent, continuing their challenges until we departed as the sun descended. 

The plentiful joys of Passarge Valley

Many of our best general game sightings occurred along the Passarge waterhole to Passarge Valley, where we watched numerous oryx with their young, springboks with offspring, wildebeests, and occasionally a few red hartebeests. We also encountered one timid brown hyena on the route to the Passarge waterhole from the camp, before it swiftly disappeared.

A cheetah mother of three cubs, estimated to be 7 to 8 months old, was observed resting under a buffalo horn acacia at the Passarge waterhole. Following that, she was sighted along Phukwi Pan for three consecutive days. Another mother, accompanied by a subadult cub, was glimpsed on the northern part of Tau Pan during one of the afternoon drives. Additionally, two subadult cubs were seen at Letiahau Pan, resting on the roadside, leading us to assume that their mother had left them, possibly for hunting.

The scarcity of rainfall significantly influenced the movement patterns of local prides, including the resident Tau Pan pride. During one morning activity, we encountered the airstrip pride attempting to hunt adult giraffes, but the endeavour yielded no positive results. Due to the heat, they sought shade under an acacia tree on the roadside. The same pride, accompanied by two of the five dominant males, was spotted at Passarge Valley, feasting on an oryx. At times, the Tau Pan pride ventured into camp, entertaining with their playful activities and creating noise, and in the mornings, they frequented the waterhole, offering a picturesque view from the deck of the main area. The last three days of the month were particularly special, as our resident pride was consistently present in the camp, even during the nighttime. 

Leopard swimming pool bush

A resident subadult leopard female attuned to our movements, and one morning, she visited the poolside while we tucked into breakfast around the fire. 

Busy families of bat-eared foxes and ground squirrels contributed to the lively atmosphere in and around Tau Pan. We also spotted secretarybirds twice this month on the hunt. Additionally, sightings of a pale chanting goshawk, Gabar goshawk, and peregrine falcons added to the avian diversity around the pan. 

Limited rainfall prompted many animals to migrate to other areas. The harsh Kalahari landscape featured trees gradually turning brown, and temperatures reached a maximum of 42 degrees. Natural waterholes were dry, and animals relied solely on pumped waterholes. Elephants hovered in the area seeking water, but encounters were limited to tracking their footprints and dung along our game drive routes. 

(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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Tau Pan Camp, December 2023

During one memorable game drive, we encountered a pack of 13 African wild dogs in excellent health at Letiahau waterhole.

The pack displayed full bellies, indicating recent successful hunts. Among them were six sizable adults and seven lively puppies.

The resident pride of well-fed lions often gathered at the Tau Pan Camp waterhole. We admired their reflections, which rippled in the water during their drinking sessions, creating a striking image of the Kalahari landscape.

A leopardess drinks from the Tau Pan swimming pool

We also enjoyed special moments with a female leopard, especially early in the month when she quenched her thirst in the camp’s swimming pool. Initially spotted near the waterhole, she gracefully departed due to approaching elephants, choosing the tranquillity of a poolside drink instead. Later, on the 30th of December, fresh leopard tracks led us on a brief pursuit, and we sighted her strolling along the road, making her way towards room one.

The arrival of springbok offspring (and their playful antics) was heartwarming, along with blue wildebeest welcoming new members to the family. The nimble black-backed jackals and bat-eared foxes, accompanied by their active offspring, added to the beautiful summer scenery.

Exciting cheetah encounters unfolded in the area, where we tracked two male cheetahs and a female with her trio of cubs. On the 5th, the mother and her cubs, positioned east of the pan, attempted a stealthy approach on springboks. Unfortunately, the antelopes sensed their presence, avoiding any close encounters. On the 22nd, a male cheetah on the eastern side of the pan engaged in a calculated stalk on grazing springboks, but the fast herbivores got away to live another day. Undeterred, the cheetah pursued a mother with a newborn, approximately two days old. A flurry of dust marked the conclusion of this high-speed chase, with the cheetah securing its meal, dragging it to the shade for a well-deserved rest before indulging in the feast.

Sublime green season in the Central Kalahari

Summer showers triggered a bloom of flowers that beckoned a diverse array of insects — the air was alive with the fluttering dance of butterflies, moths, bees, chafer beetles, ants, and wasps. As these insects thrived, they, in turn, were an irresistible draw for birds that feasted on them, highlighting the lively Kalahari ecosystem. From magnificent vultures to soaring eagles, the skies hosted a diverse cast of characters, including buzzards, falcons, kites, kestrels, goshawks, shrikes, guineafowls, spurfowls, cuckoos, sandgrouse, lapwings, thick-knees, coursers, and a myriad of LBJs (Little Brown Jobs).

A gripping encounter unfolded along Chock’s Road, where a black mamba and a yellow mongoose engaged in a fierce but fleeting battle. The mongoose retreated, and the mamba sought refuge in a hole near the road. Various snake species gracefully navigated the terrain, including snouted cobras, cape cobras, and black mambas. Tortoises, including the leopard and geometric varieties, ambled through their habitats.

Springboks CKGR Tau Pan

Guests immersed themselves in a wealth of information, discovering the intricate details of the bushman people’s lifestyle and culture during morning nature walks. Under the vast summer night sky, Tau Pan became a celestial theatre, showcasing prominent constellations. From the iconic Orion’s Belt, the hunter, to Taurus, the bull; Canis Major, the big dog, and Canis Minor, the little dog, the night sky unfolds a mesmerizing spectacle. The Southern Cross graces the morning, while the Milky Way, radiant and bright, adds cosmic brilliance. Planets like Jupiter and Saturn graced the night, and the morning revealed the gradual ascent of Venus.

(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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Tau Pan Camp, November 2023

Tau Pan showed off a parade of wildlife with a surge in elephant numbers this month in a migration-like movement from east to south.

An extraordinary morning scene unfolded on 29 November. Guests enjoying breakfast were treated to a brown hyena at the waterhole.

Puppies and badgers at the pan

Adorable black-backed jackal puppies stole the show during game drives. Bat-eared fox puppies and two honey badgers were spotted at the pan, engaging in intriguing behaviours. The interactions between these mammals and a bird of prey further enriched the spectacle, when a pale chanting goshawk was spied sitting with a honey badger.

Korhaan Kalahari
By Julie / Tawana Safaris

A stealthy cat, the caracal, was observed hunting a korhaan. Ground squirrels, ever-vigilant, sounded the alarm, prompting the korhaan to take flight and the cat to vanish into the thickets, a master of manoeuvres. Diederick cuckoos, yellow-billed kites, chestnut-vented warblers, and southern masked weavers preparing their nests heightened the sounds of nature.

Sunset Tau Pan
By Julie / Tawana Safaris

We witnessed a female cheetah and her playful cubs engaging in a gripping hunt. However, their springbok target proved too fast, marking a day of missed opportunities. Later in the month, the trio attempted to separate a gemsbok calf from its mother. Faced with formidable opposition, the cheetahs strategically withdrew, demonstrating the challenges of the predator’s life as they did not want to get injured. Their frames are small, and injury could lead to them being chased down by bigger predators, such as lions.

The lions of Tau Pan

The Tau Pan pride, comprised of six subadult lions, showcased their territory by venturing close to the camp waterhole for a drink often throughout November. They continually found respite under the bushes, sometimes making photography a challenge as heat built during the day.

Tau Pan Lions Kalahari
By Julie / Tawana Safaris

We tracked the airstrip pride, usually numbering four, but now three, tracing a meandering path, eventually resting by the runway. It was noted that the first daughter might have birthed cubs.

The allure of Tau Pan extended beyond sightings. Guests enjoyed walks with San legend trackers on an immersive journey into the bush, where the pulse of nature meets the rhythm of ancient culture. Each step into the Kalahari helped to cement the harmony between land and people.

Bushman walk Central Kalahari

As darkness fell, the Tau Pan sky was adorned with constellations like Canis Major and Canis Minor, Orions Belt, Taurus the Bull, and more. The view of Jupiter and Venus made for an awe-inspiring evening panorama. Nocturnal life in Tau Pan came alive with ground beetles, horn moths, ball byter ants, and the industrious Matabele ants. The presence of the African migrant and African monarch butterflies, and a cape cobra on the move all pointed to a thriving desert ecosystem.

The sand dunes continued to weave a breathtaking picture across the Kalahari Desert, now complemented by vast greenery. Blooming plants and flowers and nourishing grasses like the Kalahari sand quick contribute to the lushness. However, though green Tau Pan craves more rain, hopefully to come.

(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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Tau Pan Camp, October 2023

We watched in awe as a mother honey badger spent a week teaching its subadult baby to hunt.

Yet, the lessons ended abruptly one day when the mother unexpectedly chased the baby away. The duo returned days later, with the mother brandishing a snake to keep the curious baby at bay. Playful bat-eared foxes and an African wildcat’s evening hunt were equally memorable moments from October. 

Brown hyena at the Tau Pan Camp waterhole

Then, there was the early morning drama as guests spotted a brown hyena at the Tau Pan Camp waterhole. It suddenly disappeared into the darkness, but to everyone’s delight, it returned during breakfast, offering splendid photo opportunities. 

Unlike their more socially oriented counterparts, spotted hyenas, brown hyenas tend to be more solitary, frequently foraging alone or in small family groups. Their opportunistic feeding behaviour encompasses skilled scavenging – they often feast on carcasses – and active hunting of small mammals, birds, and insects.

The great Kalahari black-maned lions of Tau pan

The resident Tau Pan Pride of eight lions showcased impressive ambush techniques during the enchanting golden hours of the morning at the camp waterhole. After several missed attempts, the lions retreated to the shade of the guest rooms for a day of leisure until trying again in the cool of dusk. Another notable highlight was seeing a mother and subadult male with two tiny cubs finding shade under an umbrella thorn acacia at San Pan. Witnessing two subadult lions attempting to take down a fully grown oryx added another thrilling encounter to our fantastic game drive log. 

Oryx kalahari desert

In the afternoons, a small herd of six bachelor elephants became a daily spectacle at the camp waterhole, seeking relief from the heat with refreshing drinks and showers. The bone-dry start of the month attracted a plentiful congregation of general game around the waterhole besides. Greater kudus, giraffes, and wildebeests quenched their thirst. Springboks, red hartebeests, and prized desert antelope, herds of oryx, were seen out in the grasslands.  

A mother cheetah with three cubs, estimated to be five to six months old, graced us with their presence for a week. While we didn’t witness kills, the cubs’ bloodstains on their mouths and full tummies hinted at successful hunts.

Leopard tracks were visible around the camp, especially in the mornings, taunting us with their tantalizing proximity. One morning, we enjoyed a tranquil encounter with a female resting below a small umbrella thorn acacia. We then watched another leopard try to land a steenbok, but it missed. 

Kalahari ostrich

Summer brought avian guests like the yellow-billed kite, common buzzards, and red-necked falcon, complementing our resident birds, like the cattle egrets and ostriches. Raptors, including pale chanting goshawks and gabar goshawks in various morphs, also showcased their hunting prowess. 

(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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Tau Pan Camp, September 2023

September brought riveting lion sightings, with all three lion prides showcasing their vibrant health.

The eight-month-old cubs of the San Pan Pride were a particular sensation, their growth evident as they strength with each passing day.

In the sweltering summer, the Tau Pan Pride (the reigning rulers of the area) graced the camp frequently, taking respite by guest rooms after drinking from the waterhole. Tensions brewed between the Tau Pan and Airstrip Prides, marked by noisy nocturnal escapades around the edge of the camp.

A relaxed female leopard was located leisurely feasting on a steenbok carcass atop a tree, a scene repeated with another catch later. A brief post-dinner appearance by another male leopard added a thrill to the camp atmosphere.

Tau Pan Camp Aerial

A serene male cheetah graced the southern pan, offering a delicate balance of grace and power. Tracking this slinking creature proved challenging, especially in the presence of the formidable Tau Pan pride, known for chasing away competitors.

While brown hyenas remained elusive to the eyes, their tracks painted silent stories on roads and around the waterhole.

Springboks making a fuss and elephants at the camp waterhole

The landscape echoed the clashes of springbok horns as males engaged in spirited duels for the favour of the females. Two dominant gemsbok males engaged in a fifteen-minute photogenic battle, highlighting the intense dynamics of the animal kingdom. Other visitors to the waterhole included kudus and wildebeests, and siestas were often momentarily abandoned to witness the big male elephants drinking.

Wildebeest Central Kalahari

Small mammals sighted included yellow mongooses and slender mongooses scavenging for food, bat-eared foxes foraging for scorpion morsels, and ground squirrels leisurely basking in the shade. Black-backed jackals rested while honey badgers dug in energetic bouts, unearthing their feast of snakes, lizards, and skinks.

Pairs of vultures were spotted nesting on top of the camel thorn acacia trees. The Southern pale chanting goshawks also nested on top of the camel thorn acacia, and we were delighted to see their chicks tucked in safely.

(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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Tau Pan Camp, August 2023

A thrilling hunt took place this month near the water hole, where the Tau Pan pride attempted to stalk a small herd of springboks stealthily but were then given away by an alert shadow of kudus.

The pride re-coordinated and successfully took down two springboks, leaving the guests spellbound as they watched the lions sate their hunger.

Springbok Tau Pan

During another morning drive, a surprising spectacle took place in the western expanse of Tau Pan. The air filled with urgency as several black-backed jackals raised alarm calls, their focus directed towards a specific location. The guides paused, observing for further signs of distress, and discovered a solitary female leopard perched regally atop a termite mound. The leopard had recently caught a jackal, which lay beneath her.

The guides, respecting the rules of nature, ensured a safe distance and time to allow the magnificent leopard to savour its catch without disruption.

A shy brown hyena darted across Tau Pan during the day, captivating attention as it vanished into the northwest terrain. These elusive hyenas are primarily nocturnal and generally more secretive than their spotted relatives. Brown hyenas have a broad diet, consuming anything from small mammals and insects to fruits and carrion.

The cheetahs of Tau Pan

One morning, a dedicated tracker and guide team located a magnificent male cheetah. The great cat, moving with purpose, was on a quest for sustenance, its lean form indicating a hunger for a successful hunt. The trackers observed with bated breath as the cheetah stalked its prey. The atmosphere was tense as the cheetah tried several times to catch its prey. With lightning-fast agility and grace, it attempted to pounce on potential targets, but luck seemed to be against it, and it could not secure a meal. However, the feline was not discouraged. Later in the month, it was seen marking its territory and healthily asserting its presence in the westerly region of Tau Pan.

Cheetah in the Central Kalahari Tau Pan

Elephants, kudus, oryx, and springboks were sighted, especially around the Tau Pan Camp water hole. Daily scenes in the golden Central Kalahari Game Reserve grasslands included the playful antics of black-backed jackals, bat-eared foxes, yellow and slender mongooses, ground squirrels, and the solitary scrub hare. Ground agamas were common, too, and there were occasional sightings of the striking (fortunately, not literally) black mamba.

The avian ensemble for August featured impressive raptors, from the mighty martial eagles and tawny eagles to the charming African harrier hawks and enthusiastic passerines, such as the desert cisticola, fawn-coloured lark, and buffy pipit.

Splendid stargazing at Tau Pan Camp

Come nightfall, and the Tau Pan Camp deck provided an enchanting spectacle for stargazers. Under the vast expanse of the open Kalahari sky, guests had an unparalleled 360-degree celestial panorama. The Southern Cross, Scorpius, Sagittarius, and Corvus the Crow graced the heavens and were the most prominent constellations. As guests made their way to the fire in the early mornings, they witnessed the planetary parade with Mercury, Mars, and Jupiter, each adding its unique gleam to the tapestry of the sky before dawn broke.

(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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Tau Pan Camp, July 2023

Have you ever seen a cheetah trip? Turns out speed is only part of the picture.

One afternoon drive to Tau Pan, guests located a cheetah chasing a springbok, but a piece of stray limestone tripped up the predator. It was a lucky day for the sprightly springbok – and everything else. As the quarry ran away, all the other animals in the area were alerted, and alarm calls resonated through the valley.

A different cheetah in the company of three subadults was seen along the second pan from Tau Pan, and we enjoyed a fantastic sighting of a male on the hunt. Black-backed jackals started following him, and the male cheetah twisted about to chase the scavengers until they gave up. The predator proceeded with its quest but didn’t catch anything that day.

Strangely, we found a black-backed jackal feeding on a yellow mongoose for a while before picking it up and carrying it away to provide for the rest of the family. We also saw (living) slender mongooses, yellow mongooses, and bat-eared foxes. One day, we watched some of the foxes fleeing from a cheetah!

Kalahari birdlife in July

Birdlife was rich, especially at the camp waterhole. Watching from the deck, we logged a pale chanting goshawk feasting on a dead dove until a tawny eagle swooped in to steal it. Unfortunately, the meal was lost in the bush when the goshawk took off in surprise. A gabar Goshawk also killed a tiny red-billed quelea, and he enjoyed his dinner to the end. Elephants also came to drink at the water hole, chasing away other animals and dominating the area. Or so they thought… we observed plenty of dung beetles in their wake.

We frequently saw lions from the Tau Pan pride at the camp waterhole this winter. One day, they feasted on a young kudu and another occasion, we tracked a young male and female lion to the south of the pan, where we found them with a wildebeest.

We observed a female leopard in the west of the camp pursuing a little steenbok. However, the prey became alert and quickly spotted the predator, causing it to flee. Later, we spotted another female leopard at the airstrip crossing, eyeing a springbok as its next meal. Despite the predator’s attempts to hide in the bushes, the springbok herd heard their warning calls and evaded the attack. We also witnessed another female leopard hunting bat-eared foxes, but the black-backed jackals intervened, alerting the foxes to flee. In retaliation, the predator chased the jackals but ultimately failed to catch anyone and disappeared into the bush.

At Tau Pan and San Pan, we witnessed various animals and plains game. The grasslands were teeming with frolicking and fighting wildebeests. We watched as they challenged one another and rubbed their horns on tree branches, leaving the trunks almost ringbarked as a territorial display.

The grass species have dried up and moribund in a state of hibernation, waiting for the summer rains to spur new growth. However, the trees remained relatively green, particularly the acacias like the umbrella thorn, camelthorn, and shepherd’s tree.

Bushman walks and Milky Way moments at Tau Pan Camp

During nature walks in the Kalahari desert, experienced San trackers at Tau Pan taught guests about their cultural heritage. They demonstrated methods for obtaining water, creating traps for birds and animals, and starting a fire using friction.

Tau Pan stars

We gazed at the stars in the evenings and learned about constellations such as Canis Major, Canis Minor, Scorpio, and the Seven Sisters. On the 28th and 29th, we observed a series of satellites moving in a line, likely part of Elon Musk’s Starlink program, a stirring counterpoint between the ancient San tracking and the most modern of technologies at Tau Pan.

(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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Tau Pan Camp, June 2023

A herd of four large male elephants visited the waterhole daily this month, although they sometimes drink at night. 

During these winter evenings, we often paused to appreciate the incredible night sky experience of the Central Kalahari, with its bright luminosity and plethora of stars. The Milky Way was clearly visible, along with constellations like the Southern Cross, Scorpio, and parts of Leo. The planets Venus, Mars, and Jupiter add to the enchantment, particularly in the early morning hours. 

Brown hyena at the Tau Pan Camp waterhole

The elusive brown hyena also appeared at the waterhole on three occasions. While they remained shy and quick to flee when approached, guests highly appreciated these sightings.

Cute lions of the Kalahari

Both the Tau Pan and Airstrip prides were active in the area, offering incredible sightings. The Tau Pan pride was frequently spotted near the camp, even feeding on an oryx near the airstrip. The Airstrip pride, consisting of two lionesses and two cubs, was seen lying under bushes with full bellies after successful kills and a young male cub showed signs of developing a mane. Male lions, however, were absent throughout the month.

Two young female leopards were spotted in various locations. One frequently occupied the airstrip area, actively marking territory and we once caught her with a springbok kill up on an umbrella thorn tree. Male leopards also left their tracks near the camp, and there was a brief sighting at San Pan, before the big cat disappeared into the bush.

Two male cheetahs were also seen regularly, except when lions were present, as they tried to avoid potential conflicts.

The leaping lynx

One day trip to Deception Valley, guests relished an encounter with a caracal before it swiftly disappeared into the bushes. Caracals, also known as African lynxes, are medium-sized wild cats. These elusive and solitary felines are known for their distinct tufted ears and sleek, reddish-brown fur. Caracals are highly skilled hunters with remarkable agility and incredible jumping abilities. Their diet consists mainly of small mammals, such as rodents and hares, but they are also known to prey on birds and occasionally larger animals. They can leap and catch birds in mid-air thanks to their strong hind legs. 

Bat-eared foxes and black-backed jackals were spied at various open areas, while an African wildcat was logged stalking ground squirrels at Phukwi Pan. An aardwolf was located south of the pan in search of food and honey badgers were observed near San Pan. 

Tau Pan Camp Sunset

General game sightings have been impressive, with giraffes frequently visiting the Tau Pan waterhole. Oryx and springboks retreated to the thicker bushes due to the dry grass. The oryx, also known as the gemsbok, is a striking antelope species found in arid regions like the Kalahari Desert. Oryx can survive without water for long periods and can withstand extreme temperatures. They are agile runners, reaching up to 60 mph (97 km/h). Steenboks and duikers were also seen in the area. 

Birding has been remarkable

Cape vultures were nesting to the west of the airstrip with pale chanting goshawks, gabar goshawks, and great kestrels among the other species spotted. An African harrier hawk has been perching in the trees near the waterhole while bateleurs and tawny eagles made appearances. Kori bustards and korhaans have been spotted intermittently.

A black mamba was sighted crossing the road, disappearing into the trees. The dry vegetation has limited insect sightings, but antlion larvae with conical traps were observed. An intriguing ball biter ants, or balbyter in Afrikaans, around the camp provided an interesting sighting. As always, the bushmen walk allowed guests to tap into the ancient wisdom of a time-honoured Kalahari lifestyle with water collection and fire-making demonstrations.

(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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