At the beginning of 2019, we find ourselves looking back on the previous year’s safari season while we make plans for the next. We had plenty of great sightings and while it is hard to cover all of them here are a few of our favourites. There were so many that we have split this into the first and second half of the year, look out for our next post soon.

Our season started in April, at the end of our rainy season, with a mammoth enjoyable safari to the remote Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Khumaga in the Makgadikdai and Moremi. This particular trip culminated in seeing African wild dogs being chased by Zebra (not the other way around as you might expect!) on our way to Maun. This exciting sight nearly made our wonderful clients Helen, Richard and Sue miss their flight!

A Burchell's Zebra chasing an African Wild Dog

Our next safari at the end of April started well with a leopard near Ihaha, not a common sighting for us in this area as it has such a high lion population! 

We also had great leopard sightings at Savuti and Moremi and saw lions throughout the safari. Seeing spotted hyaenas on a fresh impala kill on Marula Island was a highlight. One of our guests took well over 10,000 images on this exciting safari.

Spotted Hyaena's one with fresh impala carcass

Moving into Botswana’s winter months- characterised by chilly mornings and evenings but with brilliant cloudless days, we were again lucky in June. A short Chobe safari was very rewarding with both leopard and lions giving us great photo opportunities. 

Leopard resting dead tree head down

Later in June, we hosted a safari to Moremi. We stayed at 2’nd Bridge and a highlight there was a hippo being used as an island by a grey heron and a hammerkop- very entertaining and photogenic. 

Grey Heron, Hippo and Hamerkop

 

In the rain-free winter months, animals congregate around water sources and this certainly proved true around the Khwai River on the Okavango’s Eastern side. On just one trip, at Khwai, we viewed a saddle-billed stork displaying, watched elephants bathing, marvelled at a beautiful black-maned male lion yawning in great light, saw a leopard in a tree with a young impala, and found an African rock python! Saddlebilled Stork male wings outstretched Lion Yawning

We also had a wonderful African wild dog sighting with them playing in front of us for a good hour. 

Savuti also impressed with the famous marsh pride of lions on a wildebeest kill and some very photogenic yellow mongooses. To finish this trip we found more lions and enjoyed a great boat cruise at Chobe.

July gave me a surprise with a male leopard patrolling near the river shore on our 3 hour Boat Cruise. Chobe provided great lion sightings, including a male who gave a full spine-tingling roar mere metres from us. 

In Savuti we had wonderful sightings of spotted hyaena pups at a den, lovely sunsets and many more lions. This included a courting pair of lions- always a special sight. A leopard killed an impala near our camp at Khwai and stashed it in a bush. It moved it somewhere more private during the night, but we had a great leopard sighting the next day. We also watched some graceful wattled cranes moving along the Khwai River.

Wattled Cranes and chick in Botswana

We also enjoyed a spectacular prolonged lunar eclipse near the end of July in Moremi and caught a glimpse of the rare and elusive sitatunga on our boat cruise from Xakanaxa.  The sitatunga or marshbuck is a fascinating swamp-dwelling antelope. We were lucky to spend an hour before sunset watching a serval along the Khwai River. Although a common cat a daytime sighting is very rare.

Two leopards kept us entertained for hours at Khwai. One of the leopards became annoyed at a coppery-tailed coucal which wanted some of their kill! We also spent time with a pack of endangered African Wild Dogs here. 

African wild dogs near campsite Khwai May 18

At Savuti we watched some very mobile male lions eagerly following females. Another pride of lion kept us in suspense for 2 hours as they longingly watched a herd of cape buffalo but disappointingly nothing happened. And an elephant bull taking exception to some courting lions at Savuti proved very entertaining!

After a great start to the year winter was drawing to a close. As the days lengthened and the bush grew drier we looked forward to the exciting game viewing to come.

Young female leopard Khwai