Botswana safari report

8 February 2010 | Jo Jenkins | Safari and Beach News, Botswana

Residents in the Maun area have seen an exotic and dangerous array of African wildlife in recent weeks. The large rains in the village have brought out a vast array of venomous snakes including Puff Adders (Lebolobolo), Black Mambas and Mozambique Spitting Cobras (M’Fezi).
Staying with the reptile theme, one lucky boatman on the Boro River witnessed the rare sight of a Chameleon braving the deep waters of the main channel to cross to the other side. Swimmers in the Thamalakane and Boro Rivers have also spotted decent sized Crocodiles that have returned with the larger floods of recent years. These floods have brought with them the schools of breeding fish that the Crocodiles predominantly feed on.
Elsewhere, on the peripheries of the town there have been sights of Elephants feeding in the Mopane forests and troops of Monkeys gleefully feeding on newly ripened fruits.

Central Kakahari
The central Kalahari is teeming with wildlife as this successful rainy season continues to encourage vegetation and mammals alike. The blanket of green that is Tau Pan is dotted with thousands of dark shapes that on closer inspection include Springbok, Giraffe, Red Hartebeest, Wildebeest and Gemsbok.
Two resident males have made themselves heard this January on Tau Pan. Barely a night has gone by when the roaring has not been heard. They are frequently seen passing close by the camp and sitting on the Pan, providing good photo opportunities. Over in Deception Valley Lions were also seen on a Gemsbok carcass they had pulled down the night before. On Phejuke Pan we have had several sightings of three Cheetah brothers stalking the large Springbok population there.
Several less common mammals have been seen which makes for very unique game driving. The anonymous Aardwolf was spotted foraging on the Deception/Tau cut line and the Cape Fox has been seen at intervals on the various Pans. Black Backed Jackals, a rare Caracal and plenty of Honey Badgers (Matswane) are also around.
Furthermore, we have had two strange bird sightings for these dry parts. The African Jacana which is synonymous with the Water Lillie’s of the Okavango Delta was seen on the arid Tau pan and the Dwarf Bittern (Heron) which is difficult to spot even in the waters of the Okavango was seen at Deception Valley at what must be the very southern extremity of their range.

Makgadikadi & Nxai
This month has seen the return of the Buffalo herds to Nxai Pan. Since the rain started it has taken them two months to trek from Chobe National Park through the wilderness to Nxai Pan. Here they will graze the new grasses until the rains stop before migrating back north for permanent water.
The immense Zebra migration goes on to the amazement of guests at Nxai Camp. Thousands of Zebra are concentrated from Baines Baobabs all the way to Khama Khama Pan in the North of the park. Fresh, lush grasses are providing excellent nutrition for young foals to grow strong in time for the harsh Kalahari winter.
Resident Lions of the pan are also enjoying this season of plenty and are routinely picking off the weak and the young from the vast herds. The open area in front of the camp before the water hole appears to be becoming a lucky site for cat kills. Once again this month we were treated to the spectacle of Lions consuming their lunch nearby our own dining room!
Cheetahs have also been abundant of late. A female Cheetah and her young cub were seen feeding on a Steenbok (Phuduhudu) for a whole afternoon. The two male Cheetahs are a frequent site on the main Nxai Pan, often stalking Impala in the woodland or Springbok on the Pan.
Many bachelor herds of Elephants are in the area around the water holes, Giraffes in large herds (Journeys) and plentiful plains game. Migratory birds such as European and Purple Rollers and Wahlbergs Eagles are still in the area as well as several good sightings of reptiles such as Chameleons, Rock Monitors and snakes

Okavango Delta
The seven male Lions of Kwara have split into two smaller groups for now – perhaps as a reaction to the scattered game since the rains came. One group of four moved north to the Tsum Tsum channel while the remaining three remained closer to the Shinde main road.
One eye and her two female descendants have been on the hunt quite regularly and were observed one night taking down a Kudu in the thick woodlands which is there preferred habitat.
A family of six Cheetahs including last years star mother of five cubs was seen hunting Impala across Tsum Tsum mabala. The hunt provided excellent photographic opportunities for the lucky guests and it is great to see the family being so successful after all the trials of growing up last year.
At Tsum Tsum we also had a pack of Wild Dogs that were extraordinarily mobile. The same dogs had been seen at the Santawani area of the Okavang Delta only a few weeks before and must have travelled at least 150km but probably a lot more to get here. Additionally, they would have had to cross the Maunichura or Khwai River which is a deep water crossing covered in a Papyrus reed bed. This is a fine example of the tenacity and endurance of these extraordinary animals.
The camp itself is still enjoying excellent views across the lagoon of over 60 hippos that are becoming increasingly intense as competition for space hots up. The fresh flood water is still months away so the Hippos will have no choice but to fight or move on. All this should make excellent game viewing at the camp.

Kwando & Linyanti
Some stunning evenings have been spent on top of the brand new Lagoon double decker boat looking on with satisfaction at the beautiful summer sunsets. Stunning mosaics and colours illuminate the clouds as guests sip on Gin and Tonics and watch the sun go down.
Hippos and Crocodiles are abundant in the Kwando main channel along with the elusive Sitatunga that hides in the Papyrus reed forests floating on the permanent waters. On the dense riverine islands we have seen a host of interesting animals from troops of Baboons and Monkeys to African Rock Pythons and the piscivorous Pels Fishing Owl.
Out on the floodplains the game has been spectacular. Wild Dogs have been seen on a number of occasions chasing Red Lechwe and Waterbuck through the shallows. Buffalos and Elephants still come down to drench their thirst in the baking midday heat before returning back into the rich grazing areas of the west.
Once in the woodlands we have seen our three Cheetah brothers many times. During the heat of the day they tend to rest up under the Blue Bushes waiting for an unsuspecting Impala to come past. Hunting usually occurs at slightly cooler temperatures but still diurnally to protect their kills against the heavyweight nocturnal hunters such as Lions, Hyenas and Leopards.
Further out still towards the western Mopane the resident Lions have been following the Buffalo herds. A total of five Lions including two males were seen on a Buffalo kill towards the upper Kwando and stayed there for over three days feasting.

This month has seen an explosion of life on the Lebala plains. Countless young antelopes frequent the grassy fields and the bird life has been quite staggering. Pelicans, Cranes, Storks, Herons along with summer migrants such as Yellow Billed Kite, Carmine Bee Eaters and European Rollers have been involved in a feeding frenzy throughout the area.
Other small animals of interest include the nesting Foam Nest Frogs whose nests can be seen hanging over the areas pans and other potential spawning areas. The resident Lesser Spotted Genet has returned and can often be seen spying on guests at supper!
Large breeding herds of Elephants are still prominent in the east towards the floodplains but in lesser numbers now that the Mopane pans are full. The occasional party of dagga boy Buffalos still strut around the western pans and there are countless harems of Impalas and Zebras scattered through the bush.
On the predator front we have been fortunate to see two packs of Wild Dogs around Lebala this January. One of these packs consists of 16 dogs and the other of just 6. Generally the larger the Wild Dog pack the more successful a hunting unit they are and this has certainly been proven to be correct in this case. While the six dogs were not observed killing any prey successfully by our Guides, the sixteen had four recorded kills. Three Impala and a Steenbok.
Three Cheetah brothers have also been seen on occasion, usually stalking Impala through the Mopane woodland. One huge Tom cat Leopard that has become a regular sighting at Lebala was seen dragging a Wildebeest calf into a Sausage tree for safe keeping. The three male Lions brothers have also been spotted patrolling the roads and marking their territory.

Written by Jo Jenkins

Jo’s enthusiasm for safari as a child when her parents worked in Zambia, then Kenya. Jo quickly fancied herself as a safari expert and has been a keen game tracker ever since. Although, more recently, she is very keen to trial many of the (more luxurious) beach lodges we now offer.

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