Tau Pan

Tau Pan Camp, July 2022

Brown hyenas are known to be elusive, but we were treated to the glorious sight of one throwing caution to the wind and having a roll in the waterhole in front of Tau Pan Camp.

Bat Eared Foxes Kalahari Tau Pan Camp

Meanwhile, the Bat-eared foxes have been ubiquitous. They are easily identified by their unique ears, which they occasionally rotate to face downwards (much like revolving satellite dishes) to seek out insects, invertebrates, and rodents. A Tau Pan regular, they are proficient diggers and were sighted across the area where they have multiple dens and boltholes. Winter allows us to see them sunning themselves (ears down to avoid drawing attention). 

Blue Gnu Tau Pan Camp

With the bush drying out, various waterholes attracted more than just the birds. Tau Pan, San Pan, Passarge, Lethiahau and others have drawn Giraffes, Blue wildebeest and Kudu to these focal points, which inevitably attracted the attention of the Kalahari lions.

Lions at the waterhole

The Tau Pan pride spent most of July around camp with a beady eye on the waterhole, and lionesses confidently left the cubs to go and hunt. One afternoon we spent the entire game drive in the company of the little ones at the airstrip, playing, fighting, and enjoying some rough and tumble. Late in the afternoon, the pride returned and picked the cubs up from their impromptu kindergarten before heading back into the bush. We are pleased to report that they all seem happy and healthy.

Tau Pan Winter Kalahari Lions

Leopards featured prominently this month. While the Tau Pan lion pride took up residence at the camp waterhole, they occasionally wandered further away, allowing the leopards to roam without worry. Our regulars were widely witnessed, and we were also excited to see a lone male leopard who we had not seen before in the area. Male leopards will mark and defend their territory, so it will be interesting to see if our newcomer likes his surroundings and decides to stay. This could create an exciting dynamic as our resident leopards become aware of his presence.

The Tau Pan Camp water hole provided a life-giving drink but also harboured dangers for the unwary. As our guests sat watching the various flocks of birds arriving and leaving while keenly marking off their tick lists, a Gabar goshawk took its chance. These speedy birds can accelerate to over 60kmph, and the flock of Red-billed quelea had barely settled to drink on the ground as the goshawk bounced, catching a quelea on the wing as the flock scattered. The sheer speed and precision of the goshawk make a leopard seem positively lethargic by comparison!

Shorter days and a desert chill set in during July, and the last vestiges of green grass faded. Early morning starts were accompanied by thick jackets and fleece-lined ponchos, although the early morning winter clothing almost always gave way to t-shirts and shorts by late morning.

A guineafowl comedy show

Despite the chill, the cycle of life continued unabated at Tau Pan. We often report on exciting lion hunts and leopard ambushes. However, a ‘kill’ isn’t defined just by the actions of the large predators. The avian descendants of the dinosaurs also provided some amazing action. On one occasion, our guests found a Helmeted guineafowl that had caught a striped mouse. Firstly, they were treated to the comical spectacle of the guineafowl trying to swallow the mouse whole before any of his fellow fowls got wind of his prize. This proved impossible as his throat simply was not large enough to accommodate the unfortunate mouse. As we wondered whether he might well choke, another guineafowl came in and attempted to remove the mouse. This was, of course, no act of charity but calculated theft. The two fought over the mouse in a noteworthy bout of fisticuffs. Eventually, the first bird rescued his prize and flew off to eat in peace.

A heavenly stay in the Central Kalahari

While the days reached the mid-20 degrees centigrade, overnight temperatures dropped to almost freezing in the bush — a terrific time to enjoy the clear skies and endless stars framing the Tau Pan night.

Tau Pan Stargazing

In an area as remote and isolated as the Kalahari desert, light pollution is minimal to none, and star-gazing is simply magnificent. Especially if you spend a night at the sleep-out deck. Fall asleep to unobstructed views of shooting stars streaking across the heavens. There are few places in the world where you can be so completely absorbed in the night sky!

(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!)

Tau Pan

Tau Pan Camp, June 2022

Most insects have hibernated with the weather dry and nippy at this time of year. However, the cheerful orange African monarch still frequented our skies, and harvester termites have been busy at work. 

Mornings have been particularly icy (one day, the thermometer dipped briefly below zero degrees centigrade) but encased in blankets and holding hot water bottles, our guests were richly rewarded. We located a very relaxed female leopard along the aardwolf road. She was lying in the open, grooming herself, and there were plenty of opportunities to photograph her. Then she slowly stood up and walked past our vehicle before disappearing into the bushes. 

As always, lots of lion activity

One afternoon, we followed the beautiful cats of the Tau Pan Pride until they reached the Tau Pan Camp waterhole for a drink of water. The resident pride of eight (two healthy lionesses and six growing sub-adults) was witnessed again closer to the runway. They were well-fed, dragging their bellies as they trotted about in the early dawn. Another morning, we located fresh lion footprints along the fire break and tracked them towards the camp workshop, where the sub-adults played a charming hide-and-seek frolic to the delight of our guests.

We also found a male lion lying on the road near room one. It made its way to the waterhole, where he made a paltry attempt to hunt a gathering of Greater kudus, but they easily outran him. 

The following day, we tracked two big male lions thanks to their resounding roars and located them along the road to Phukwe Pan. Their impressive sounds rattled through our bones, and the pair served several renditions we could record on video. A good safari makes use of all our senses. Guides often pause a game drive, switching off the engine to listen to the sounds of the bush. One day, Springbok snorts led to a lion sighting of two lionesses with three tiny cubs walking along the road, and we watched as one lioness lifted her cub by the scruff of their neck to stash them safely in thick vegetation before she veered off to hunt. 

Tau Pan Winter Sightings

The predators of our skies have been active too. We saw a Southern pale chanting goshawk feeding on a lizard, Black-shouldered kites, Swallow-tailed bee-eaters, and the considerable Verreaux’s eagle owl with its distinctive pink eyelids. 

Guides have noticed fewer numbers and smaller herds of springboks, but Red hartebeest, giraffe, Blue wildebeest, and gemsbok have been common along with the sweet little Steenbok pairs. The Common duiker was rarely seen in the open as they preferred the protective thickets along Carlos Road.

Two relaxed cheetahs were discovered close to our borehole (one female and her sub-adult male). That afternoon drive also proved productive as we managed to locate a big male cheetah along the main road heading to Makgoa Pan, but he was much shyer. 

Shy Brown hyenas and sticky Aardwolf tongues

Speaking of shy. We came across one Brown hyena during a game drive along Chocks Road. He stopped briefly, but as soon as we switched off the vehicle engine, it tore off like a bullet. We likewise only caught a brief glimpse of a Black mamba, and the snake speedily disappeared into the grass. 

Black-backed jackal, Honey badger, Wild cat, and Bat-eared fox were seen around the Tau Pan area, and an Aardwolf was found foraging along the main road heading across to Mawelewele Road. The aardwolf has exceptional hearing and can supposedly hear termite jaws snapping a blade of grass from two metres away. Thanks to a seriously sticky tongue, it can easily lick up the meal before the insects scurry away.

(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!)

Tau Pan

Tau Pan Camp, May 2022

Rains are a distant memory now that our drier months have begun. Cooler winter winds rustled the landscape, and herbivores thronged Tau Pan for the last green grasses. Passarge and Phukwi Pans have joined Tau Pan in providing some of the most nutritious feeding grounds while other Valleys like Litiahau and Deception were completely dry.

Tau Pan Winter Kalahari Animals

The advancing winter and drier months brought shorter days and a chill in the early morning, but it also opened a whole new world of wildlife viewing opportunities.

The desert dwellers, such as Springbok and Gemsbok, have had to dust off their old tricks in search of moisture. One such skill we witnessed was the digging for the Kalahari Water Tuber. This trick, shared by animals and humans, is a fundamental way of finding moisture in the rapidly drying earth. The tuber in question is known to the bushmen as Bi (we have yet to find out what the Oryx call it) and contains significant life-giving wetness. When you meet Scoupa at Tau Pan Camp, ask him to teach you this genuine life hack.

Bushman Walk Tau Pan Camp

The many perks of digging up your dinner

It isn’t, however, just the antelopes and humans who are digging. Tau Pan is a haven for smaller mammals, including the Aardwolf, Bat-eared fox, jackals and the formidable Honey badger. When these voracious diggers start to forage for food, they bring a host of curious birds and scavengers, such as brave Black-backed jackals.

Honey Badger Desert Botswana

We watched a fantastic variety of wildlife waiting for a morsel or escaping lizard to be thrown clear of the hole. While the badger dug, we also observed a beautiful Pale chanting goshawk concentrating on its next possible meal. However, stealing from the honey badger requires accurate speed! Guides located a Snouted cobra and a few Black mambas during their desert drives and added a Leopard tortoise to their log of reptile sightings.

The lions had been noticeably absent from their namesake safari camp at the start of the month. However, as our visitors arrived, the lions responded in kind. The coalition of five male lions has been exploring their territory and met with considerable success. On several occasions, we saw them in and around Tau Pan with full bellies, lounging by the side of the road as the clicks of cameras mixed with the excited whispering voices of our elated guests. The lionesses were never far behind, and later in the month, the whole pride came together, including the six cubs with their energetic antics. The cubs’ rough and tumble serve an essential purpose. Not only does it create deep, lifelong bonds, but it teaches the cubs key stalking and hunting skills that will help ensure their survival.

Cheetahs on the Tau Pan Camp airstrip

The group of resident cheetahs moved quite widely through the area and were seen in various places, including the Tau Pan airstrip, which they used as a dinner table, having “invited” a steenbok to lunch. Cheetahs fall pretty far down the predator hierarchy despite their beauty, agility, and speed. It’s always special to see them thriving around Tau Pan, especially given the healthy lion population that the area supports.

While the wide-open areas provided fantastic hunting grounds for the cheetahs, the treetops remained our local leopards’ domain. On more than one occasion, we were given the Hollywood A-list treatment and sighted the leopard perfectly perched in a tree and preening for the cameras. One day, on a trip to Passarge Valley, we also encountered two African wild dogs on the hunt.

Last but not least, the Tau Pan waterhole drew a myriad of bird species, keen to drink and soak their chest feathers. We noted many raptors, such as Tawny eagles, sitting in wait and ready to prey on the unsuspecting at the water’s edge. The sandgrouse, doves and queleas (amongst others) had to keep a sharp eye on the sky.

(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!)

Tau Pan

Tau Pan Camp, April 2022

The birding sure has been remarkable! We were thrilled to catch sight of the rarely-seen little Grey wagtail for the first time at Tau Pan. We were also reminded that not all hunts comprise big cats and crazy chase scenes. The skies are equally rewarding.

A Pale chanting goshawk swooped and nabbed a dove one afternoon. The prey was still alive and heading towards a tree to deliver the fatal blow, but before it perched, the dove fell and was scooped up by another raptor of the same species!

Then there was action on the ground too. A pair of Secretary birds came across a Puff adder, and the bird that first set eyes on the reptile was chased away by his friend, who swiftly took over to kill the snake. It wasn’t long before other raptors came in for a share. A Tawny eagle fought the Secretary bird, but the eagle lost. Pied crows and Black-backed jackals harassed the Secretary bird too. Needless to say, despite the win, it did not have a very peaceful meal.

A Black crake also visited the water hole, and we watched a comedy show as a Yellow-billed hornbill carried a Giant jewel beetle and tried to swallow it whole. Insect life has slowed a bit, except for the Antlions (whose nocturnal activity left a dazzling lacework of tracks in the sand) and the hard-working dung beetles. Their numbers have clocked up since elephants have visited the Tau Pan Camp waterhole again.

Caracals and cobras

Caracal was clocked at Tau Pan too, and the male cat was interested in a meal of Northern black korhaan. As the predator approached, the prey made a strange noise which threw the caracal off, and it disappeared into the bush to try another hunt. We saw Caracals for several days, and the African wild cats have hunted frequently too. There were also good numbers of Black-backed jackals, Bat-eared foxes, Yellow and Slender mongooses, plus the endlessly entertaining shenanigans of the Ground squirrel.

One day we logged a handsome Snouted cobra with its head in the burrow of a Ground squirrel, but it was unsuccessful in finding any. We also came across a Black mamba crossing the road and estimated it to be at least two meters long.

The Tau Pan pride, being the two adult female lions, three males and six cubs, was seen feeding on a Gemsbok. They killed the mother Gemsbok and its calf right in the pan! We often found the cubs frolicking and playing with one another. One day we saw them investigating a poor Leopard tortoise, which had safely recoiled into its shell until the cubs got bored and moved along.

On a day trip to Piper’s Pan, we located the Piper’s pride, one male and one female. The lioness was very active and interested in the giraffes nearby. She attempted stalking, but the snorting of Springboks nearby gave away her hiding place and warned the giraffe.

A male leopard visited us at the Tau Pan waterhole, and we saw a mother with two cubs on several occasions on the Western side of Tau Pan. We also saw a mother cheetah with two subadult cubs chasing Steenboks just on the edge of the pan but were not successful in landing any.

Goodbye summer?

The trees and grasses around Tau Pan were still green but had already started to dry. The dominant grass in the area was the Kalahari sand quick, but the Eight-day grass was lusher and more palatable for herbivores, so they assembled to graze. We enjoyed big herds of Gemsbok, Springboks, wildebeest and Red hartebeest – especially at Phukwi Pan. On the other hand, Giraffes have favoured Phokoje Pan and the Litiahau Valley areas.

Trackers Make Fire Kwando

We have enjoyed what we reckon are the last rains of the season and marvelled at the skills of our trackers, who displayed their traditional skills in making fire by friction during the cultural nature walk – even though the landscape was wet.

(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!)

Tau Pan

Tau Pan Camp, March 2022

Two female lions from the Tau Pan pride killed a Brown hyena in an extraordinarily rare sighting this month!

Tau Pan Summer Season

After hearing the distinct distress call from the waterhole in front of the camp, guides quickly drove to the area to find the lions killing the hyena. During the rainy season, the remains of lion, leopard and cheetah kills become a significant food source for this forager, which is likely what led to this fatal conflict.

Kwando Safaris guide Vasco noted that plants have started losing their flowers and that Kalahari Sand Quick grass was dominant across the pans and valleys, along with Eight-day grass. Both are highly favoured by herbivores for the high nutrient levels, and it has held plenty of plains game somewhat captive. Concentrations of Oryx, wildebeest and Springboks were commonly seen in these rich areas. The herbivores have also been licking the clay soils to obtain the calcium, potassium, and phosphorus required to best strengthen their bodies. This phenomenon of soil-eating is known as geophagia.

To the south of Tau Pan, we found a very shy male cheetah (perhaps due to all lion activity listed below) and enjoyed encounters with a very relaxed leopard. It was located along Aardvark road, resting upon the Camelthorn tree, and we spent beautiful quality time watching the animal go about its day.

Our resident lion pride hung around the Tau Pan area the whole month. The pride consists of two mothers with their six cubs plus five males, who come and go as they please in groups of two or three. They frequently came down to the camp water hole for a thirst-quenching drink after their numerous kills and all seemed in excellent condition. We found the pride on a fresh Oryx kill one day, and after just four to five hours, everything was gone. The cubs played around with the skull and the hooves, and our guests took some fantastic pictures. A few days later, we found three of the males finishing off a wildebeest, which was killed by the females.

During one early morning drive, the three males gathered at the camp water hole roaring with the dawn in an incredible spectacle. The two females with their six cubs joined in, creating beautiful photographs as they were all lined up, showing their reflection in the water. They then moved south of the water hole, where they all spent the rest of the hot day in the welcome shade of a Kalahari apple-leaf tree.

After following a flock of vultures to an Umbrella thorn tree, we located two females from the Airstrip pride that made a kill of a kudu.  

What do whydahs and waxbills have in common?

Monotonous larks have arrived, and we saw a few over at the airstrip. In many regions, they come after the heaviest summer rains. Wattled starlings have also been logged (though we have yet to find their breeding site in our area), along with Northern black korhaans, Red-backed shrikes, Crimson-breasted shrikes, Violet-eared waxbills, and the Shaft tailed whydahs. The latter two birds have an interesting relationship. This whydah is a brood parasite, and the female lays her eggs in the nest of the pretty Violet-eared waxbill. The wily Shaft-tailed whydah will often mimic the violet-eared waxbill’s call when singing or calling.

Plenty of Common buzzards were seen during game drives to Deception Valley. These raptors enjoyed plenty of leftovers from the carnivores and an abundant insect pantry thanks to all the rain. We often found them chasing beetles, termites, frogs, and earthworms on the ground. Tawny eagle, Black-chested eagle, Brown snake eagle and Bateleur eagle were common in the area, but our best raptor sighting had to be two goshawks fighting for the meal. A Gabar goshawk and a Southern pale chanting goshawk locked talons, but the latter ultimately emerged as the victor.

(Note: The leopard in the Camelthorn tree was taken by sound recordist and wildlife photographer Derek Solomon during his summer safari. Other 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!)

Tau Pan

Tau Pan Camp, February 2022

In its summer wash of luxuriant grass, the sprawling Central Kalahari Game Reserve vegetation remained green during February. Rain forever feels like a miracle in this desert, even though we have already enjoyed our fair share this season! We recorded 35mm of rainfall in just one day, and the animals continued to gorge on the abundance.

In an unusual hunt, we watched a Southern pale chanting goshawk feeding on a lizard, and there was a high number of Oryx, springbok, wildebeest and Red hartbeest around. They were often stuck to the pan in the early mornings and late afternoons, where they gathered for safety to better scrutinise the surroundings for predators. Wisely so.  

Tau Pan Central Kalahari

A shy male cheetah was seen at the southern part of the popular pan trying his luck at hunting the Springboks, but one eagle-eyed antelope gave up his location and the herd scattered, leaving him hungry.

Korhaans, Kori bustards, falcons (Amur, Red-footed, Red-necked), Burchell’s sandgrouse, and Turtle doves all visited the camp water hole regularly in the mornings for a drink. The Tau Pan Camp waterhole remains a hive of activity even in the wet season. If only everyone stayed awake to witness the action.

Waterhole excitement

One day, around mid-morning, a male leopard strolled down for a drink and took his time, lapping gingerly from the water for over 15 minutes. Unfortunately, our guests didn’t see him because it was during the siesta.

Another morning, we were due to conduct the nature walk with our San tracker, Scoupa, but during breakfast, he spotted some Oryx and one giraffe acting unusually down near the water. On picking up the binoculars, Scoupa spotted lions in the area, and we boarded the vehicles instead to get a closer look at the Tau Pan pride, which comprises two lionesses with their six cubs.

Although scarce at the beginning of the month, our days soon filled with lion sightings. On a day trip to Deception Valley, we came across the Letiahau Pride resting at the base of a tall Umbrella thorn tree close to the road. The group of two lionesses with their three cubs were accompanied by three males,  which all looked well-fed and healthy. We also encountered two lionesses from the Airstrip Pride slaking their thirst at the camp water hole, and we tracked two other different lionesses on yet another occasion. We followed lion roars towards the pan and located two females with two skinny cubs on the northern side. The cubs were trying to get close to the two lionesses, but they kept growling and pushing them away. Later that day, we located the cubs as a trio with a third young member, but the older females were nowhere to be seen. We suspect that these cubs somehow became separated from their mother.

Tau Pan Central Kalahari

Reptiles were still active on warm days, and we stopped the car during one game drive for a handsome Snouted cobra crossing the road. This intriguing snake actively hunts its prey during the day. It feeds on rodents, birds, eggs, and toads but is fond of eating snakes, too, including the Puff Adder. It measured nearly two metres in length. We also found a Ground agama with a young one, which is uncommon!

(Note: Accompanying pictures were taken 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!)

Tau Pan

Tau Pan Camp, January 2022

Tau Pan Green season

We kicked off the year in true Tau Pan Camp style with a sighting of four lionesses accompanied by six cubs and five males in the eastern part of the area on 1 January 2022. They were catching some shade by sheltering below bushes while the males lay down in the open as if to show off their full bellies. 

This resident Tau Pan pride were seen drinking from the camp waterhole often. One morning, we tracked them through the alarm call of a jackal. They were full-bellied again, and the cubs were playing around with the skull of an oryx. We repeatedly encountered the pride at play which is always a joy to watch. Especially when lions are typically lethargic and can rest for up to 20 hours a day. 

An implausibility of wildebeest

Plains game sightings included high numbers of Oryx, lots of steenboks, a few kudus, healthy implausibilities of Blue wildebeest, a massive amount of springbok and a large click of eland along the Aardwolf Road one day. Did you know? The giant eland antelope breeds all year round. 

This month, we did not see any leopards but found plenty of tracks that proved their omnipresence. Guides spotted four sub-adult cheetahs through another alarm call from our wily friend, the Black-backed jackal, when it called south of the Tau Pan area. They were resting under the tree and looked hungry. Three days later, we encountered three of these cheetahs. We suspected a female was missing because they usually remain solitary between periodic meet-ups with the males. We soon spotted her, but this time accompanied by a cub and hunting on the northern side of Tau Pan. 

Passarge Valley of plenty

Passarge Valley proved particularly productive and yielded a mating pair of Kalahari spine agamas and a Brown hyena running through the bush. One day, we also stopped for a big flock of White-backed vultures and Lappet-faced vultures and saw them feeding on the carcass of a juvenile ostrich chick. 

On a day trip to Deception Valley, we came across a caracal on the move, and in another exciting sighting, an African wild cat was seen active during the day, which is unusual. Early in the month we also located a well-hidden Black-backed jackal den during our morning game drive west of Tau Pan.

Sandgrouse regularly flocked to the full waterholes, and the Kalahari landscape has been fantastic with its greener trees and flowers in bloom. This attracted a glut of insects, and hungry birds soon followed. Even ostriches took advantage of the softer stems, sweet flowers, fresh leaves, and small fruits of the trees. We have seen an abundance of ostriches within the Tau Pan area, sometimes counting 40 in one drive.   

We also noticed a flock of Abdims storks, some Bateleur eagles, Red-knobbed coots, and once a Barn owl came to visit the camp’s central area. Black-shouldered kite, Northern black and Red-crested korhaan were familiar sightings, and guides also noted many juvenile Southern pale chanting goshawks and Yellow-billed kites around. 

(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!)

Tau Pan

Tau Pan Camp, December 2021

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is astonishingly green, and we’ve seen many creatures this month, especially in the pans. With such excellent rainfall, animals congregated in large numbers to feed on the nutritious new shoots. One day, we encountered 67 giraffes at the nearby Phokoje Pan! It was amazing to see such high numbers of giraffes, especially since these lofty creatures are undergoing a silent extinction in other parts of Africa. 

Tau Pan has been productive and flush with herbivores, including gemsbok, springbok, red hartebeest and small groups of kudus. Many of these species had newly-born calves too, which attracted predators. We saw several lions from the Tau Pan pride at the water hole. This pride has one female mothering six cubs, four males and another two females. One day, the three males were located at Tau Pan, full-bellied at a carcass. Another male was seen on the second pan from Tau Pan, and the others were roaring ahead of him, urging him to join the feed. On 25 December, we saw the whole Tau Pan pride resting after a hunt – a lovely Christmas present for our guests. 

On a day trip to the Deception Valley, we came across members of the Deception Pride; three of them lay resting in the bushes. 

We did not see any leopard this month, but the staff noted several tracks around the camp. 

Also around Christmas Day, we saw different cheetahs in Tau Pan and San Pan: two cheetahs at San Pan were feeding on a springbok, the four cheetahs found at Tau Pan were hunting but unsuccessful in landing a meal. We saw this trio for two days (one adult female, two sub-adult females), and they were joined by a sub-adult male. Kwando Safaris guides noted that it was very shy. 

Insect activity flourished this month. Thanks to pools of water, we have logged sightings of rainwater scorpions and other exciting aquatic bugs. Even African jacanas have flown in to visit. The Dwarf bittern, Cattle egret, Little grebe, Black crakes and Common sandpiper were all witnessed enjoying the water too. 

Two jackals were seen feeding on a feast of termites after rains softened their mound. Other insects include the shimmering Giant jewel beetles, busy tok-tokkie beetles, and multiple kaleidoscopic butterfly flights; Yellow pansies, African jokers, African monarchs and Zebra whites have all coloured the desert skies.

A female Side-striped sand snake was seen sliding through the bushes, and a Black mamba crossed the road during a game drive.

A honey badger was briefly seen at San Pan before disappearing in a crash through the bushes in contrast to the relaxed caracal located east of the camp, making for fabulous photographs. An aardwolf was spotted to the west, and there were several steenbok and scrub hare sightings. Bat-eared foxes are always a delight, but arguably more so when sporting pups at their den. One pair was seen with a baby this month.

(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!)

Tau Pan

Tau Pan Camp, June-July 2021

As usual, the Tau Pan pride was active in the area! These well-known lions currently make up a pride of 16, but it is unusual to find them all together in one spot. Perhaps because there’s some competition?

There are also two adult females in the area and six siblings. Three of these six are young and hidden very well because they don’t want to be encountered by rivals (which might get them killed!).

One day, cheetahs were seen hungry and hunting in the morning, and in the afternoon were found feasting successfully on a springbok. This trio consists of a mother and two cubs, visiting us from San Pan. Guides are keeping a keen eye on them because lions are a threat to the little ones.

While the bigger predators often steal the spotlight, winter is a wonderful time to admire the more unusual Kalahari creatures. Thanks to colder mornings, handsome caracal and Africa’s littlest hyena, the harmless ant-eating aardwolf, were both seen active during the day. Our other sand-loving and burrowing residents, the Bat-eared fox, Ground squirrel, Yellow and Slender mongoose, also provided plentiful sightings.

As for the bigger game, no elephants were seen, but “they might be on the southern part of Central Kalahari”, Vasco says. “We do see their tracks heading towards another waterhole on the northern part of Passarge Valley”. While there are no migratory birds present at the moment, there is still plenty of bird watching to do. Vasco recorded plenty of raptors such as the Pale chanting goshawk, Tawny eagle and vultures, plus our little brown jobs, the Sabota lark, Fawn coloured lark, as well as the bigger brown jobs Kori bustard and Northern black korhaan.

Vasco says a highlight is the night sky. “It’s awesome to watch constellations in the evening. Scorpio is prominent, then there’s Corvus the crow-flying bird (but upside down) the Southern Cross and the confusing False cross, plus Musca, the bee”. Each constellation with its own African interpretation.

(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!)

Tau Pan Camp, October 2020

RAhlborn.Cat1.Lion Family.TauPan

Lions were often in and around the camp area. A lioness with three cubs took up temporary respite from the intense sun under the deck of the manager’s house. We could see that she was nursing an injured leg and during this time seemed to prefer being away from the pride and staying in camp where she could hide her cubs. This meant that the camp team needed to be extra careful as they moved around, but by the end of the month, her leg had improved and she was seen more often with the pride at the waterhole. A male lion, the father of the cubs, was also keeping an eye on his family in camp and seen near to the office. The lions were often hanging out at the waterhole, much to the frustration of thirsty antelope, who could smell the water but did not dare to get too close. One day the lions were successful in killing a wildebeest at the waterhole and another time we saw that they were stalking some drinking giraffe, but the giraffes spotted them in time and ran away. As is usual at Tau Pan, the team looking after camp were regularly entertained by the coalition of five males roaring heartily through the night to proclaim ownership of their territory.

One morning a brown hyena was seen running away from a lioness at the waterhole. We also saw a caracal heading towards the camp office – a very special sighting.

A big tom leopard was seen resting under a bush, this is the son of the dominant female in the area. The resident leopard did a patrol of the whole camp, inspecting the veranda of each room, before moving onto the next one. We followed her tracks in fascination the next day, wondering what had been going through her mind. Maybe she is missing having guests in camp as much as we are?!

The camp team saw a gabar goshawk kill a cape turtle dove and then he took his meal off to the bushes to enjoy in peace.  Another time, a big brown snake eagle caught a dove, but he didn’t finish his meal, because all of a sudden, a tawny eagle flew over him and he dropped his prey, which was snatched up by the larger eagle.

General game at the waterhole included kudu, giraffe and wildebeest.  Right at the end of October we were delighted to see a newly born springbok, already strong and ready to run for its life from some approaching lions.

One morning our guide saw a slender mongoose climb a tree and then jumped down. As soon as he landed, a Kalahari scrub robin started to give a warning call to other birds.

(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!)