As always, Kwara Concession has been teeming with the majestic wonder and intimate sightings which it is so well known for! A lioness was spotted, attempting to imitate one of her closest rivals, the leopard, as she gracefully perched herself atop a Sycamore tree. As the sun began to set, she vacated her lofty hide and descended silently only to disappear in to the blue bush. Shortly following, a chorus of welcoming from her new cubs floated through the air to the nearby game vehicle. She has cubs! It is always an exciting day to discover new additions to a family!
Nearby, another pride amused themselves with a baboon kill – a mere snack for these vivacious eaters! Though guests are lucky enough to see these proud beasts quite often in the concession, it is always special to see them, especially when they are joined by the awesome presence of three large males!
The resident hyenas entertained some of the visitors. Two clans clashed with long, unfriendly confrontations and threats. These territorial displays between the eleven adults did not, however, evolve in to any physical contact, but a thrilling sighting nonetheless!
The cats continued to demonstrate their presence in the concession with a female leopard taking down an impala which she and her two cubs dined on at sunset. This delicate antelope provided a substantial feast which they were seen feeding on for three days!er game was also found in abundance. Elephants with their slow, methodical gate were ever-present companions to guests on their daily drives as well as buffalo, giraffe, impala, wildebeest, tsessebee and kudu along with the smaller versions of the cat family – wild cats and cerval. Even the often shy and elusive sable antelope was spotted this month, with his princely curved horns which glean in the sunlight. Though a rare sight, they do appear occasionally to the delight of all to see!
As we move in to a new season, the surrounding flora is exploding in all its beauty bringing with it some extraordinary bird sightings. The Xobega Heronry is an extraordinary sight boasting exquisite populations of storks, egrets and herons, amongst others which have been roosting there for some time now.
Massive herds of elephant, typical for this time of year, have been spotted roaming the Lebala plains this month, feeding on the rich abundance of foliage which starts to appear around this time of year. In fact, the guests do not need to venture far from camp to enjoy the sight of these peaceful pachyderms as they enjoyed a refreshing dip whilst crossing the channel that runs through Lebala camp. These intelligent creatures are frequent visitors to the camps and they are heard most evenings as they wade through the water and lumber softly by the tents. Visitors are gently lulled in to a restful nights sleep with this nightly Lebala lullaby!
A massive herd of buffalo – numbering nearly one thousand – also wondered through camp as they headed South to Twinpools, the old daggaboys bringing up the rear in the protective fashion of the wisened sentry as the calves mewed from within the herd, seeking their mothers.
Twinpools offered some incredible game viewing as usual – with elephant herds numbering up to two thousand at a time! Even the lions which proved elusive in other parts of the concession chose Twinpools as their resting place for a few days. The pride of seventeen lions consists of three lionesses, four sub-adults and eight cubs and is often seen throughout the concession engaging in a variety of activities for the guests to see.
Leopards, luckily, are a regular site in the concessions, but one particular female decided to remain in the nearby vicinity of the camp for a few days, checking out her old routes, used the time to teach her cub a few of the life lessons it had yet to learn. She was also found with a kill – a full-grown male impala! Her kill proved too heavy to drag up to the safety of the nearby tree, making her vulnerable to any competition. Sadly, the hyenas were attracted by her successful hunt and she lost her meal to their determined efforts. It was an exciting encounter to view from the game vehicle!
Other game included giraffe, wildebeest, warthogs, steenbok, lechwe, zebras and hippos. The roan antelope, equally timid and regal as the Sable which was seen in Kwara, was also spotted in the area! As always, the birding was exceptional, from the friendly little carmine bee-eater flaunting its fabulous colours in the air, to the water birds wading through the water on the ground. The painted reed frogs also played their part as their choir twinkled their chorus through the night.
As the season changes and the heat of the African summer descends upon us, the elephants have found the perfect plunge pool in the Lagoon channel which they have been witnessed frequently crossing in to the Kwando water body system! Both bulls and breeding herds have made this their stomping ground. Calves were also witnessed making the crossing, using their trunks to ‘snorkel’ their way delightedly to the other side. What a magical sight to see them emerge unscathed!
It seems the buffalo also made their way over to the Lagoon area and were spotted, nearly a thousand of them in the area. It is quite a sight to see when they all move together, kicking up as massive cloud of dust that surrounds them in the midday heat.
The wild dogs were seen at their ‘new’ den. The parents appear to be doing a great job in caring for their pups as all appeared well fed and in excellent condition! Not only did the wild dogs have successful hunting this month, seen feeding on an impala, but a female leopard with her cub was also seen feeding on the calf of an eland. Another leopard shared her hunting behaviour as she frolicked from termite mound to termite mound scouting the area, to later settle comfortably up a tree. The Malasera Lion Pride seems to have found eland the choice for the menu as well and was seen at two Eland kills. They were accompanied by the two ‘shy boys’ who lived up to their name and slowly sauntered off after being sighted. The pride was later discovered at the airstrip attempting to hunt some warthogs, though their efforts were in vain!
Inter-African migrant birds have started to appear in large numbers as in common this time of the season, accompanying the graceful yellow billed kites and carmine bee eaters in their daily flights. Vultures and other raptors have also been seen frequently along with batelear eagles.
As with at Lebala, the Black-backed jackal and hyenas were seen on night drives. Upon return to camp, the hippos serenade the guests as they prepared for dinner – a wonderful nightly chorus of grunts and snorts as they communicated between themselves. This is Lagoon’s very own evening song to be heard most nights until the dawn.
The Tau Pan Pride has continued to be seen, frequently passing by the water hole to drink in the mornings. On one such occasion, they left the pan and after a short walk, found the appropriate resting spot, where the adults lay down whilst the cubs entertained themselves by playing boisterously amongst themselves as the day progressed, to the delight of the guests! The cheetahs also used the pan as their watering hole, however, soon moved off to disappear, expertly camouflaged, in to the bush.
The Oryx Gazella, or Gemsbok, with its long, gleaming black horns, was also seen at the various water holes to then disappear silently in to the surrounding landscape. The springbok, with its exquisite white belly, was spotted on the plains, along with steenbok, wildebeest and kudu. And the cheeky little ground squirrel was seen scurrying along, stopping and rapidly scratching in search of food, to be shielded from the sun with its large, fluffy tail. The slender mongoose also popped its head out of a hole a couple of times to check on the activity taking place around it. And a spotted genet – a rare sighting indeed! – catapulted itself out of its hiding place, and disappeared just as quickly in to shelter of the long grass. This constant activity as guests travel through the area is what makes Tau Pan such an exciting place to visit!
Birds are also seen in abundance in this area – the lilac breasted roller, red crested khorran and the pale chanting goshawk were just a few of the variety of birdlife that has been seen and continues to be seen throughout the days.
Honey Badgers are frequent nightly visitors to the camps; even seen stealthily creeping under the deck of one room to the delight of the occupant! One amazing incident also occurred, where a family of four were spotted as they searched for their breakfast. This interruption in their early morning ritual sent them bounding across the open plain at incredible speed as they sought a hiding place!
As with Tau Pan, Nxai Pan also was visited by its own pride this month. The watering hole seems to be the choice spot for many as the temperatures start to climb with the onset of a new season. On more than one occasion, lionesses bought their cubs to drink in the cool, refreshing waters before they continued through the concession. A number of cubs have been seen with various females; some cubs estimated to be but three months of age whereas others are older, possibly closer to a year. Elephants have also found the watering hole a welcome respite from the midday sun and large bulls and breeding herds were seen often, some even climbing in to cool off! They were, however, not in the mood to share this welcome oasis with the lions, which they quickly chased away.
The cats seem to be the common theme through all the Kwando areas as the leopard and cheetah were also spotted throughout the month. The leopard, on one particular occasion, chose to sneak through camp and use the walkway as it silently passed between room six and seven. A female cheetah with her two cubs enthralled guests when she commenced a hunt shortly after being spotted! Fortunately for the steenbok which was her chosen prey, she was unsuccessful this day.
That precise little antelope, the springbok, was also seen prancing around along with the gemsbok, impala, wildebeest and zebras. Scrub hares have been seen, a small family even having taken up residence under the deck in the dining area! Late afternoon drives have also allowed for some viewing of the African Wild Cat and the much loved Motswane (honey badger) was also seen exploring the area. The greater kestrel was seen circling the skies and other sightings of birds included the marico fly catchers, chat fly catchers, white backed vultures, and like Tau Pan, the Kori Busturd!