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Botswana Green Season: January 2013


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umiami -(hurricane?)


Thanks for taking the time out of your superb report/photo; I did use a Canon with a 15-85lens; also a 70-300 -so it is apparently NOT the camera but the person using it :wacko:

Also, the info on Lightroom; need to look into that. But everyone starts somewhere and my start was in the Okavango Delta! (I had never used it before Bots; my fav. p&s gave out and DH handed over one of two canons 2nd day.) I was highly intimidated by all the knobs. Although curious as the days progressed


Learning quite a bit on photog reading ST, so perhaps by next year!


REALLY love your photos! (and video) definitely makes me want to return sooner than later.

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WOW - no other word!!!


Hope to get to Chitabe one day..... Look forward to your Duba report. Once again, thanks for the stunning images and lovely narration.

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Just fantastic images. Brings.back many memories. Really looking forward to reliving Duba Plains with your pictures, perhaps the most beautiful concession I have ever been to on safari.

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Duba Plains


The flight from Chitabe to Duba was about 30 minutes and the drive to camp from the airstrip was only 5 minutes. So we had plenty of time to explore camp, take a nap, etc before our afternoon game drive. All the guest vehicles at Duba are brand new and very nice. They are much taller than conventional safari vehicles and have much larger tires. The frame and axels have also been beefed up considerably.




We got our first glimpse of Duba plains later that afternoon, and the scenery was incredibly beautiful: rolling plains filled with bright green grass, elephants, hippos, and red lechwe grazing all over the place, and lots of bird life. The first goal of basically every game drive is to find the herd of buffalo and see if any lions are around. The buffalo are relatively easy to find since there are hundreds of cattle egrets following them around. All one has to do is spot a bunch of white birds flying in the distance and the buffalo herd is sure to be there.




As we explored the plains we saw some great bird life. The highlight was definitly the carmine bee eaters. I had read in guide books that carmine bee-eaters are known to circle elephants and vehicles because they rustle up insects to eat. The guide books were dead on because as we drove through the plains, flocks of carmine bee eaters would circle the vehicle. They would come in like fighter jets flying in formation. One at a time they would hover next to the moving vehicle, and when it spotted an insect it would swoop in front and grab it mid-air. The carmine bee-eaters would only do this however, if the vehicle kept moving.
















side-striped jackal



We finally caught up with the buffalo herd but there were no lions in sight. The buffalo were looking very healthy and strong, and the guides said that the lions had to mainly prey on red lechwe since the buffalo were in such good condition.






We left he herd and found a nice spot near the elephants for a sundowner.



Edited by umiami05
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Fabulous safari, excellent report & superb pics....

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On our first morning at Duba, we headed out early (5am) to find the buffalo herd. We followed a flock of cattle egret flying over the plains and eventually located the herd. A quick sweep of the area revealed two sub-adult lions sitting on an old termite mound surveying the herd. The rising sun was directly behind them so the buffalo was unaware of there presence. Still, their vantage point on top of the termite mound was a rookie mistake that only inexperienced lions would likely make. The more battle hardened adults were no where to be seen.






Duba is an excellent place to see lions hunting. Unlike most other lions, they will hunt during the day. However, after watching a couple of exciting wild dog hunts, lion hunting takes a little getting used to.




Since these two lions didnt stand much a chance against a healthy buffalo, we decided to explore the area and see if we could find the adults. In short order our two guides, Spike and Thuto spotted the female lioness Silver Eye laying in an open field. As we headed towards her, we spotted two more lions about 300 yards away. A closer look revealed the lone Duba male mating with another lioness.












After mating twice, the pair slinked off to rest under a tree. We headed back over to take a look at Silver Eye. She was looking rather ragged and thin, but she is still a survivor.




The adults were all sleeping in the bushes so we returned to the two hunting adolescents. They were still stalking the buffalo herd by laying on termite mounds. This time, the buffalo clearly saw the lions and were wearily moving away.








The buffalo started crossing a flooded pond. More experienced lions would have used that opportunity to run at the buffalo to panic the herd in the hopes that one got left behind. However, these two youngsters just crept up slowly as the last of the buffalo made it safely across the water. Upon seeing that they missed their opportunity, the sibling lions layed down under a bush. We decided to be patient and see what transpired. We could see about 100 red lechwe off to the right moving towards us...and the lions.


A few minutes later, a clueless juvenile red lechwe was recklessly bounding towards the pond in front of us and the lions. It paused briefly to look around, and continued on its way, directly towards the bush concealing the lions. When the lechwe came within 20 yards of the bush, the young male lion rushed in, reared up and took a big swipe. Unfortunately, (or fortunately depending on your perspective) the lechwe dodged the male's paw and ran away unscathed.


Lucky young Red Lechwe



This incident really showed how inexperienced the lions were. The male ran out too soon and the female didnt help at all. Had she attacked along with the male, she could have cut off the lechwe's escape.


The rest of the lechwe herd was unaware of this activity and were slowly making their way towards the pond, just like the juvenile. We waited for about an hour when the lechwe made it to the water. They were soooo close to following the same path as the juvenile before them, but some how their sixth sense kicked in and they went right instead of left, walking away from the lions. As if that wasnt enough, the male lion grew too inpatient and walked brazenly out in the open to grab a drink of water. Once the lechwe spotted him, the hunt was over.













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More stunning photos! So cool to see Silver Eye - how old must she be by now? I hope to make it to Duba Plains one day, but not this trip.


Speaking of this trip (as I leave in a few days!) how did you find the mosquitoes - were there many?

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how did you find the mosquitoes - were there many?


The mosquitos weren't too bad when we went in early January. I hardly noticed them and never really used insect repellent. Although I did get a few bites here and there.

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how did you find the mosquitoes - were there many?


The mosquitos weren't too bad when we went in early January. I hardly noticed them and never really used insect repellent. Although I did get a few bites here and there.

Oh that's good to hear. I will use repellant as I'm one of those people that the mosquitoes always seem to bite if they only bite one person in a crowd! I'll be taking malarone too.

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Amazing photos...


They are learning by trial and error....

I'm sure you have something in store for us later!

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I will use repellant as I'm one of those people that the mosquitoes always seem to bite if they only bite one person in a crowd! I'll be taking malarone too.


Several of our group used bug spray, especially at sundowners or around the fire. The mosquitos are definitely around but they weren't horrible when we were there. We took malarone too. Its better to be safe than sorry.

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Silver Eye is looking bad. Her bad eye seems more pronounced and even her good eye does not look so good here. Any word if one of the males is named Junior? The shot of mating lions is a great one. Those first photos of Duba really capture its essence.

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Umiami- Did you see the 16-17 yr old lioness with a tumour on her head? She was the oldest but looked okay in Dec'11.


Those 2 cubs - the boy and girl - how old are they? Approx 18 months? Wonder if they are Ma DI Tau's 2 remaining cubs.


We did see the old lioness with a tumor on her head on our last day at Duba. I will post pictures of her at some point. We ended up seeing all the lions that used to make up the Tsaro pride before it splintered into three subgroups.


The two sub-adults were older than 18 months. The male was looking ready to start marking territory so I would say he was 2-3 years old. They were also hanging out nearby silver-eye, Silver-eye's sister, and the lioness that was mating, but Im not sure what her name was. Im guessing the two sub-adults belonged to the mating lioness.


We saw Ma Di Tau briefly at one point. She was with several other lionesses and some 4 month old cubs.

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On the afternoon game drive, our goal was to find one of the three sub-prides that splintered off from the original Tsaro pride because they have 4 month old cubs. This group includes the famous Ma Di Tau.


It was a cloudy overcast afternoon and the Duba plains were dotted with thunderstorms on the horizon. We came across a breeding herd of elephants and lots of red lechwe.










Our guide, Spike, knew the general area where the lions should be found, so we drove around looking for any signs. We didnt have any luck so we decided to double back on the road we were on and almost as soon as we turned around Spike spotted a lion head peaking up from behind a bush.


We headed over to the lions and found 3 4month old cubs, 2 sub-adults, and 2 adult lionesses. They all had full bellies and were completely knocked out. One of the cubs tried to nurse several times, but its mother seemed to be too tired to be bothered. I seem to recall the guide saying these were Ma Di Tau's cubs, but I might be remembering that incorrectly.









Darkness fell a bit early on this particular night because of all the clouds. We left the sleeping lions, had a pleasant sundowner, and called it a night. The plan was to get up early the next morning and see if we could find some more hunting lions.

Edited by umiami05
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Those 2-3 year olds were 2-3 months old when were there in Feb. 2010. Silver eye was looking old then, and was not trusted around the cubs. Great to see the young ones doing so well.

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No sightings of the three ( heard one had been killed later ) beautiful cubs we had seen last February who should now be about 18 months old? The mother was Ma di Tau.

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Another mundane detail question from me, since you were just there and since you traveled from the same place as me, I presume (SFO) - did you overnight in JNB or arrive at JNB in the morning and go straight to Maun after a few hours? And if the latter, did you check your bag(s) from SFO straight through to Maun, or did you collect them and then re-check with Air Botswana? Having a hard time deciding which to do and I leave in 2 days! Thanks.

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Did you overnight in JNB or arrive at JNB in the morning and go straight to Maun after a few hours? And if the latter, did you check your bag(s) from SFO straight through to Maun, or did you collect them and then re-check with Air Botswana? Having a hard time deciding which to do and I leave in 2 days! Thanks.


We overnighted in JNB before heading to Maun. Regardless though, you may have to pick up any checked bags in JNB before heading through customs, then recheck them to Air Botswana. We actually didn't check any bags. We did all carry-ons so that none of our luggage would get lost.

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ok, thanks for the input. I'd like to do all carry-on but I'm not sure my main bag will meet with SAA approval for that for the second leg of my flight from Heathrow to JNB - I know they are notoriously strict on weight even on those big planes and I am over their limit.

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On our second morning in Passarge, we again awoke to the sounds of roaring lions nearby. We set out on our game drive at 5am, but within less than 5min from camp the road was blocked.




We finally found the source of all that roaring. As we got closer we noticed a lioness laying in the grass nearby. The two other lionesses and cubs we saw the day before were no where in sight. That could only mean one thing.....





The two lions looked quite exhausted and the interval between matings was quite long. Lions mate continuosly for 3-4 days. On the first day, matings occur every 10minutes like clock-work. On the third or fourth day, the intervals increase to 30+min. These lions were definitely nearing the end of their mating. In fact, the female was clearly trying to walk away but the male was apparently still interested.






After we left the lions we had several good sightings of bat-eared fox, two african wild-cats, some cool insects, and some weaver birds.













Wow the photographs are simply amazing, love the video of the 'chewing of ear'. So glad we are camping in CKGR on our self drive this year. If we see anything like you did we will be over the moon. Pen

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After having seen so many fresh tracks in the morning, we knew something had to give in the afternoon. We set off with much anticipation and enthusiasm. However, 10 minutes into the game drive we pull up with a flat tire. My brother-in-law loves working on cars so he jumped right out and helped Thuto change the tire. The whole thing took less than 5 minutes to change and we were back on the road. Only the caveat being we no longer had a spare tire :(


Further up the road, we noticed several Burchal's Starling squawking like crazy and staring down at a bush. Thuto surmised there may be a snake in the bush. So he got out to investigate and found a small 3-4ft rock python, our 3rd snake of the trip.






After the snake, we got a call in on the radio that a lioness with 3 cubs had been spotted near the airstrip, so we headed in that direction. We soon found the lions lounging under a small tree. We sat patiently for awhile watching the cubs hoping they would wake up and start playing.




All was quiet and tranquil in the vehicle when all of a sudden a short message came in on the radio. Thuto, who had been sitting on the edge of the car, sprang into the drivers seat and shouted to sit down and hold on. He gunned the engine and we flew away. Tearing up the road we asked Thuto where we were going. He told us a nearby vehicle was rounding a corner and spotted a lone wild dog who had just taken down an impala. Just as he said this, we pulled into a clearing and sure enough, there was a wild dog tearing into a fresh impala carcass.












As the wild dog was feeding, it kept looking around for the rest of the pack. It would take a few bites, then trot around the clearing with its head held high to try and spot the other dogs. Surprisingly, it wasn't whooping or calling to attract the rest of the pack. Finally, after a few minutes, the dog ran off to go get the rest of the pack.


While the dog was gone, we heard some baboons alarming in the distance, signifying some other predator was in the area. We knew the lioness and 3 cubs were nearby so we figured that is what the baboons were alarming about. A few minutes later, we heard some rustling from behind the vehicle and we all turned to look, expecting the dog pack to come running up. Instead, we saw a female lion walking straight towards the kill with her head held low. The lioness jogged towards the impala carcass, grabbed the kill, and quickly trotted off.




As we started to move the vehicle to follow the lion, we saw through a clearing in the bushes that the rest of the wild dog pack had just arrived! They watched as the lion ran off with their kill.






Thuto asked us who we would rather follow, the lion with the kill or the pack of wild dogs. We unanimously said to follow the dogs knowing that they would surely go back on the hunt.


The dogs seemed a bit stunned at what had just transpired. They milled around a bit, and the sub-adult pups begged the one dog to regurgitate some food for them.






It wasnt long before the dogs regrouped and ran off with purpose to go back on the hunt. We chased after them, crashing through the bushes and running over logs.






The dogs were moving fast, but we were able to keep a few of them in view. However, the dogs soon ran into a thick mopane forest that would make it almost impossible to follow them. It was at this point that we remembered the earlier flat tire and the fact that we no longer had a spare. We prayed that all our tires stayed in tact for the rest of the hunt!








We decided to skirt the edge of the mopane forest and hope the dogs emerged. Sure enough, the dogs luckily started running along the edge of the mopane just like us. When the dogs finally left the mopane they fanned out and went in all different directions. The majority of the pack went left and two other safari vehicles followed. Thuto noticed two dogs break off right and we decided to follow them. The dogs were really moving fast at this point and it was getting harder to keep up. We broke through into a clearing just as two dogs pulled down an impala. Two other dogs emerged from the bushes and helped bring it down.




This time, the rest of the pack showed up really quickly and the feeding ensued.










From start to finish, the impala was consumed in 5minutes. It was very impressive and really exciting to watch. As the dogs lounged around gnawing on bones, we had some time to reflect on what we just saw. Thuto said when he saw the pack arrive to witness the lion stealing their kill, he was worried a fight would ensue. He said the lioness would have surely killed a couple of the dogs. Luckily, that didnt happen and instead we got to watch an entire wild dog hunt. A really special memory.


As darkness fell, we had to leave the dogs because none of the guides knew exactly where we were and we had strayed quite far from camp. It turned out to be about an hour drive back to camp. About 20 minutes away from camp, the car started driving strangling. Thuto stopped the vehicle and we all leaned over the side to inspect the tires. That is when we noticed our rear tire, the same one that went flat earlier in the game drive, had almost completely come off the axel. It was missing 3 out of 5 lugnuts, and one of those had almost worked itself completely loose. We made a quick fix of the problem by borrowing 1 lugnut from each of the other tires, but we realized how lucky we were that didnt happen during the hunt. That would have been extremely dissapointing.


Video of the whole thing:

What an amazing experience with the dogs and the lion. You were very lucky. Now, as a keen video maker myself I wonder which video camera you use and who was doing the video while you were taking those fantastic photographs? do you make your YouTube videos on a Mac or PC and which programme do you use? Pen

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Wonderful report of what was obviously a fantastic trip, and the photographs (and the video) - superb.


Those dogs look so fat! as do the other animals, but it is the season of plenty I suppose. I think I need to do a green season trip - so many good reports about that time of the year.

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Quite the feeding frenzy. You won the lugnut lottery!

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A wonderful report. I especially enjoyed the wild dog video. I see a green season trip coming up. My husband is a magnet for mosquitoes but it sounds as if they are not too bad and we would certainly be taking malarone. Thanks so much for writing this and sharing your excellent photos.

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