Lebala, Apr 2019

tour operator: Stephan Tuengler camp: Kwara guide: Stephen Matija

A pack of five wild dogs killed a kudu calf right next to the staff village but before they could finish eating the carcass was stolen by a clan of three hyenas. Later in the month we found them chasing down and killing another young kudu which they quickly devoured. The usual resident pack of two dogs were also spotted in the area chasing medium sized antelope such as impala, red lechwe, bushbuck as well as warthog. They once killed an impala right in front of camp. Whilst they were still feasting a lone hyena came and ran away with the whole carcass.

One time the trumpeting of an elephant led our guides to investigate what was happening and he came across the Wapoka Pride which now has nine cubs, three older ones and six small cubs. One of the females was drinking water and the rest were lying in the shade. We found this fast-growing pride many times during the month, once their growls led us to find them enjoying a zebra kill. On another occasion three females and their six cubs were drinking at a waterhole when they quickly disappeared. All of a sudden, the two males known as Old Gun and Sebastian appeared and they seemed agitated as though they were worried about an intruder in the area. The next day the males were with the rest of the pride enjoying the last of a kudu carcass. The complete pride of sixteen were also seen feeding on sable, kudu and warthog, on the latter occasion the males kept the meat to themselves and wouldn’t let the lionesses or their cubs eat at all. Guests enjoyed watching the cubs nursing from their mothers.

Another resident lion family, the Bonga pride, was still roaming the Lebala area. One evening they caught a warthog very close to camp. We watched them eating and after finishing the carcass they went to the nearest water to drink with their cubs playing nearby. Two spotted hyenas came and started to gobble the carcass.  This pride was seen targeting a wide species of prey ranging from warthog to giraffe. Towards the end of the month the two lion prides came across each other and after a combat they retreated back from each other’s territories so that they were no longer overlapping.

Keen eyes by our guide and tracker team spotted the flicking tail of a leopard in the marsh area and discovered our resident tom, nicknamed Fisherman, hunting in his favourite habitat. The resident female known as Jane was also located hunting reedbuck, moving from tree to tree as she tried to stalk her quarry although she wasn’t successful on that occasion.

The resident coalition of two cheetah brothers was seen along the road stalking impala, but their prey spotted them from some distance away and bolted leaving the cats looking hungry. Later in the month we found them with an impala kill, but it was stolen by the ever-opportunistic hyenas.

The lack of rainfall in the area influenced the movement of certain species and elephants in particular. Individual herds of elephant could be seen coming out if the woodlands heading to the riverine areas where they congregated in huge numbers. Guests enjoyed watching elephants playing and bathing in the water.

General game included impala, wildebeest, zebra, warthog, red lechwe, kudu, warthog, bushbuck, giraffe roan and sable antelope.

Bird species identified included saddle-billed storks, wattled cranes, herons, African fish eagles, and egrets.

(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!)

The Rains, November 2014

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And the rains, finally, arrived. This is a huge high point on the calendar of anyone that lives in Botswana. In most areas, it will not have rained since March. That’s eight months of dust, drying grass, herbivores looking skinny, and not a cloud in the sky. The scent of the first rains, the first storm that produces enough water to actually make it to the ground, and everyone wanders round with big grins and a huge sigh of relief. Of course, if you have paid a lot of money to come to sunny Africa, it’s not every visitor’s idea of a dream weather, but for the vast majority, the happiness and the release of the months of build up is infective.

There is, however, one thing that every camp manager has to go through at some point of their career. No amount of training or coaching can prepare you for it, and when it happens there is, literally, nothing you can do but wait and see how the guests react. It’s often said that the two forms of wildlife that have had the most impact on the construction of the Okavango Delta are hippos and termites. Hippos, because of their movement through the water, clear channels and change the course of water over the years. Termites, because of the homes they build, are responsible for the land masses and islands that have formed the Delta. And its one of these two life forms that results in the Trial of the Camp Manager, soon after the first heavy rain fall.

I guess we should be grateful for small mercies – it is not thousands of hippos that come dancing out of the water and careen towards the nearest light with the ever perfect timing of Murphy’s Law – exactly at dinner time. But the termites do just that. For only one night a year, every young termite in the area launches out of their mound and uses brand new wings for just a couple of hours, whilst they look for love. Not only attracted to each other, they are attracted to any form of light source, and will completely swamp the light. They find their mate, drop their wings, and each happy couple goes off to be King and Queen of their own new termite mound.

It is one of the most amazing things you can witness – the air filled with fluttering wings, as they launch in the moonlight and jostle and dance in clouds or smoky columns. But, for the unsuspecting overseas visitor, it can swing either way…. They are going to love it or hate it. It’s kind of like going to see the Serengeti migration, when you don’t like wildebeest.

Although the night this event will occur is never known, the time it occurs is like clockwork. The first flutters will be timed perfectly with the guests sitting down to dinner at 8o clock. By 830, whatever your meal is, you won’t see it, as the only way to avoid eating termites is to eat in the dark. Generally, by the time dessert and coffee rolls around, the chaos is over, there are piles of lacy wings scattered over every surface, but it remains difficult to avoid regicide when walking anywhere.

Naturally, this occurrence is sometimes deemed the Camp Manager’s Fault, by those guests that are not keen on having the experience in 3D. But, without this experience, the Okavango Delta would not exist. So if it really is the Camp Manager’s Fault, you really should be thanking them profusely!