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Lions and Dogs and Baboons, oh my: Botswana February 2013 Trip Report


SafariChick

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SafariChick

On the afternoon drive that day, we found the herd of sable and had a quick look but decided to leave them and come back to look for them later because we heard on the radio about a leopard sighting, so we hurried over to see her.

 

It was a female on a log, posing very nicely for us. She then went down off the log to drink water, and then into some bushes where she had a kill hidden. We watched her for a while and could see parts of her and parts of her kill but couldn't get a clear view of the kill. We did see the color and gathered it was either an impala or maybe a reedbuck. The smell was awful, so strong that I couldn't breathe through my nose - Ron said the kill was perhaps two days old to smell that strong. It was interesting to observe her in the bushes, and I remember commenting that I wondered how many leopards are hanging out in bushes all over Africa without our even knowing, as they can be so completely hidden!

 

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After spending a good amount of time with the leopard, we went back to see the Sable

 

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I also wrote down that we saw a single hyena cub, but I didn't write down the circumstances - must have been at a den? StokeyGirl, do you recall? I have some photos but they're a bit blurry so I won't bother posting them. No dogs, but all in all another good drive. Was quite happy with the leopard sighting and it was nice to see the sable again and get some pictures of just one at a time this time.

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Thanks, @@graceland   The next day was our last full day at Lagoon, another beautiful sunny day as all the days had been for me at Lagoon. I am trying to remember if this was the day that we had a

The next morning it was not raining and there was a pretty sunrise through white clouds.   P1110370   P1110371   P1110372   P1110374   I learned that no new guests were arriving that da

We soon met up with my guide-to-be, Russell Crossey. He was a charming, well-spoken and very knowledgeable South African who had been guiding for many years in Bots, and seemed to consider Bots his ho

Pangolin

Great trip and great report! Nice to see what is happening

in some of my favorite areas.

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stokeygirl

 

 

I also wrote down that we saw a single hyena cub, but I didn't write down the circumstances - must have been at a den? StokeyGirl, do you recall? I have some photos but they're a bit blurry so I won't bother posting them. No dogs, but all in all another good drive. Was quite happy with the leopard sighting and it was nice to see the sable again and get some pictures of just one at a time this time.

 

Yes, we went to a hyena den right at the end of the game drive- light was getting iffy. I'll see if I've got a couple of photos. A baby hyena came out and was looking right up at us- very curious.

 

We went back a couple of times later in the stay (once after you'd gone) to see if we could get them in better light but it seems that dusk is the time they like to come out- I've got photos from a hyena den at Lagoon from 2010 in similar conditions.

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twaffle

Just love the leopard and sable photos, very envious of those sightings. :)

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SafariChick

Well until StokeyGirl finds a photo, or in case she doesn't, here's one - a bit blurry but so cute, I thought it deserved to be in here ^_^

 

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The next morning was my last drive at Vumbura. The morning was cool and foggy/misty again. We saw a pair of Fish Eagles, then following lion tracks, we saw a hyena.

 

After that, we again found the pride of 7 with the three 6-month-old cubs resting on the aquatic grasses seemingly full and just grooming each other a bit. The cubs seemed a bit shy this time, and went into the bushes;

 

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Two hyenas came across the grass and were sniffing the air - one lioness saw them and sat up and I thought something was going to happen, but then she lay back down.

 

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We went by the hyena den again, but there was only 1 male lying outside.

 

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We saw Saddlebilled storks and Grand hornbill (I think the photos in my last post of these birds were actually from this morning drive) and then we came across a herd of elephants playing and bathing in water. A few of them were not too happy about our presence, and one was trumpeting and head-tossing at us, and even got out of the water to get closer to us and do some more head-tossing, but a couple of them were ok with us being there and it was a lot of fun to watch them enjoying the water.

 

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And that was the end of my stay at Vumbura. I left StokeyGirl and Ron to have two more drives without me, while I headed on to Chitabe. So no, I never did see the rest of the dogs at Vumbura! But don't worry, there were dogs galore to come at two of my next three camps!

 

 

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Sangeeta

SafariChick, just getting started with this and have completed reading the Little Mombo section. LV will be my treat for tomorrow :) These reports are getting better and better...

 

So, what do you feel in retrospect about LM? Was it worth the trouble and juggling and date changing? The lone dog looks beautiful and good to see her so healthy.

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SafariChick

SafariChick, just getting started with this and have completed reading the Little Mombo section. LV will be my treat for tomorrow :) These reports are getting better and better...

 

So, what do you feel in retrospect about LM? Was it worth the trouble and juggling and date changing? The lone dog looks beautiful and good to see her so healthy.

 

Yes, to me it was totally worth it. I absolutely loved LM, it felt magical to me and I hope I'll get to go back there some day. I think if I could have done the whole trip a little earlier in the green season, it might have been better conditions with shorter grass - but then I had some amazing sightings that only happened on the specific days I was there, and who knows whether I would have had sightings as good if I'd gone earlier? So overall, yes, definitely was worth it!

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egilio

Hi Safarichick, what a nice trip report! Wonderful photos too!

Never seen anything like that on a Sable, I hope somebody can shed some light on that.

The hyaena lying outside the den is most likely not an a male. Males are rarely tolerated at communal dens, and if so, only the highest ranking ones, which are very old ones.

Hyaenas are notoriously difficult to sex, especially when they haven't bred yet. You have to look at the shape of the (pseudo-)penis (blunt or pointed) to sex them, but this is pretty difficult!

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SafariChick

Thanks egilio! I like the misty lions  - it really reminds me of being there with that mist, different from other lion shots I have.

 

eglio, it's a mystery about the lumps. Someone said maybe some kind of infection? That is interesting information about the hyaena. I have heard they are difficult to sex - I thought our guide said it was a male, but not sure how he came to that conclusion. Maybe because of its size as I've heard the males are smaller than females?

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SafariChick

My next stop was Chitabe. This camp was a bit bigger than the others - well, Little Mombo is very small with only 3 rooms so most places would be bigger. Vumbura Plains was split into two parts, North and South, each operating as a separate camp really (I never ventured over to the other side!) and I can't recall now how many rooms each side had - maybe 7? But it felt spacious and uncrowded. Chitabe felt a bit crowded at meals and tea in terms of room to sit, people trying to use the public loo, etc.

 

But it was a very nice camp, nice managers and good food, and I appreciated the decor of the rooms - this one's a little blurry but can you see what the photo is over the bed?

 

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I liked the outdoor shower as well.

 

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outside of outdoor shower:

 

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inside of outdoor shower:

 

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I had requested to be with Phinley as I had heard good things about him and my request was granted. As usual, I started in with my refrain that I hoped to see wild dogs. The dogs had actually been seen that morning, so Phinley had a good idea of where he thought they'd still be. I was put in a vehicle with two couples, one a very sweet older Swiss couple who were very amenable to doing whatever, and then a German couple who had just arrived. The German couple had been on one safari before, to Namibia. The man had a good camera and wanted to take pictures of everything. Phinley was trying to hurry to get us to the dogs and he mentioned to the group that he'd slow the pace of the drives down so they could see stuff more slowly after this one, but that since we knew where the dogs had been that morning, it was a good idea to try to find them quickly because it's possible that we wouldn't find them again for the rest of our stay.

 

So we moved at a decent pace, though I would not say quickly, and the man still wanted to keep stopping and photographing every bird and every impala, so Phinley did stop for some stuff. I was really worried the dogs would be gone, but luckily, when we arrived they were there - DOGS!! A whole pack of them, for my first time since so far I'd only seen a solo dog! It was a beautiful time of day and they were near some lovely water, so it was very scenic.

 

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I mostly took pictures of one or two dogs together even though the whole pack of then was there (five adults and five puppies, about 8 months old) as they were still lazing around for the most part, and only one or two would be up and moving around at a time. They had either eaten that morning or the night before, I can't recall now, and they still seemed full and like they weren't going to get up and hunt, but a couple of them would get up and lie down again in the shallow water, making for some nice pictures.

 

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Not sure what was going on here with the dog on the viewer's right!

 

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We stayed with them as the sun got lower and lower and they were still lying around, clearly not going to get up and hunt. Phinley suggested we just have our sundowners right there in the car next to the dogs! I loved this idea, and I thought this is my kind of guide! It was a really lovely scene.

 

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Edited by SafariChick
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Wow - what an amazing report. - great photos too.

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It's funny...they like to play in the water. Keep up the good work, your trip report is great!

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SafariChick

Thanks so much for the kind words, dikdik and Marg - so glad you are enjoying the report! Our first morning drive at Chitabe consisted of such sights as a hippo out of water crossing our path

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a weaver bird hard at work

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a mother & baby mongoose (no photo), and what appeared to be a sick zebra - it was lying down and made no attempt to get up or even look at us when we came along and stopped, it was just staring into space.

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This was sad, seeing this kind of thing makes me wish we could do something to help, but I realize that this is nature and we shouldn't interfere.

We also saw a 2-male lion coalition - old sleepy guys -

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We stopped for Coffee at lovely spot at the edge of the concession, across the river from the Moremi game reserve with hippos, birds, a crocodile, a monitor lizard, very scenic spot.

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When we continued on, we saw a variety of bird life

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and the always entertaining baboons.

It was a nice, mellow and pretty long drive - Phinley had us out 5.5 hours from 6:15 to 11:45. A few random notes: I noticed that everyone seems to drive slower here - at keast Joe, my airport driver and Phinley my guide did - they seemed to drive much slower than Ron, or maybe it was the vehicles being a little different. If I am recalling correctly, the Chitabe vehicles were a bit bigger - I think they were Landcruisers as opposed to Landrovers? Also, I don't recall how it came up but Phinley mentioned that the Chitabe lease is up for renewal soon and as part of that, he told me they might expand by another 3 rooms, I think it was, as Sandibe might be doing that and I guess they want to keep up with them? And also he said that Chitabe is running full or almost full a lot - and I did notice it seeming fuller than the first two camps I visited, perhaps because those two were premier camps and more expensive - well, Little Mombo was full my last night there, but that's only 3 rooms - I don't know about "big" Mombo.

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SafariChick

On the afternoon drive, I didn't write down much as to what we saw. The main sighting was a pride of eight lions including two older cubs. They were sleepy at first, but then they got up and started walking around and playing.

 

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The other significant event at this sighting was that it was getting towards dusk, and another guide, BB (your friend, Graceland) was at the sighting with his guests. It turned out his vehicle had broken down - rather inconvenient to break down at dusk whilst surrounded by lions, is it not? BB had radioed for help and another vehicle was on the way with a part that BB had determined he needed. We offered to take his guests in our truck if they didn't want to wait there, and they all ended up accepting so we had a completely full vehicle, I think it was 10 passengers, even filling the seat next to Phinley! We left poor BB there - we offered to wait with him but he was laughing and joking that he was fine. The lions by this time had wandered off to go hunt, we theorized, but we were all very relieved to see him walk in to camp at dinner time!

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twaffle

What a truly beautiful wild dog sighting.

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Game Warden

I would have chosen to wait with BB instead of swapping vehicles. BTW was yours a private vehicle?

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SafariChick

I would have chosen to wait with BB instead of swapping vehicles. BTW was yours a private vehicle?

 

A couple of people were offering to stay with BB but he was encouraging everyone to go with us - I did think someone should wait with him but then I didn't know that it should be a guest - we had no trackers since this was Wilderness or else he would have had a tracker with him. He didn't seem the least bit concerned though, he was joking around and really didn't want the guests to be inconvenienced. No, it wasn't a PV - I didn't pay for a PV at any camp and at this one I had two other couples in my vehicle.

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SafariChick

Once again, my two cameras are messing me up - just found a whole bunch more photos of the lion sighting in the evening. I'll just post a couple because these were actually better than the ones from the other camera, I think.

 

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and here's a short video of the cubs being playful with the adults

 

 

 

The next morning was cool and cloudy, with light rain on and off, but it was mostly dry. Driving around, we came upon a spot where we heard squirrels and impala alarming, and noticed this well-camouflaged creature walking through the tall grass

 

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The squirrels and impalas need not have been alarmed, though we were grateful they alerted us to her presence. She jumped up on to a log

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and promptly fell asleep.

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She did present us with some very nice photo ops in the process, however.

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After a while, we moved on and came upon a second lion pride, different from the one from the day before. This pride had a young male that looked to be getting close to the age where he would be "kicked out" of the pride, according to Phinley, which is about three years old.

 

These lions were mostly lazing around, as lions tend to do

 

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but they did give us a few nice poses!

 

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After that, we drove around some more and saw hippo

 

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and, of course, various birds. Here's a Francolin

 

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and my favorite, the lilac-breasted roller

 

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and headed back to camp for brunch.


Edited by SafariChick
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Jochen

I would have chosen to wait with BB instead ...

My thoughts exactly! Alone with a pride of lions; hard to top.

 

Everyone says great sightings of dogs & lions ( which is true), but I particularly like the leopard sightings you had. So photogenic!

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SafariChick

 

I would have chosen to wait with BB instead ...

My thoughts exactly! Alone with a pride of lions; hard to top.

 

Everyone says great sightings of dogs & lions ( which is true), but I particularly like the leopard sightings you had. So photogenic!

Yes, it's true alone with a pride of lions is pretty special - but we'd all been alone with them for quite a while, and they really had walked off and were not in sight any more by the time we left BB.

 

Thanks for the comments, and I did feel very lucky to have these leopard sightings. I met several people later in my trip who hadn't seen any and kept saying they are so hard to find, and I felt very fortunate for the leopards I'd seen.

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twaffle

Leopards are always a privilege, love the photos.

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graceland

Oh wow the leopard photos! Chitabe was one of my fav's though I did not notice a crowd, so perhaps it was not full in Nov. I met BB and Phinley but

MOLEMI was the guide we loved so much and did not ever want to leave. He found us dogs, leopards, lions; Chitabe really is chock full of game!

 

I particularly loved the staff as they truly seemed interested in how your game drive went and Phinley and BB were always out front and chatting. Just a great ole game camp - no fluff.

 

Your last two camps, VP and Chitabe have really brought back special memories.

 

GREAT pics; really a treat to see/read.

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SafariChick

Oh I'm sorry, Graceland, I don't know why I thought you ha BB. I'm not even sure if I met Molemi - maybe he was on leave when I was there!

 

Yes it was full when I was there - it was ok and nice to meet all different people - including a young woman originally from Japan, living in the US for 10 years but now living in Botswana and working for the Japanese Embassy there - she laughed and said there were only about 80 Japanese people living in Botswana.

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Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us. I was in this area in 2008 and your photos bring back many happy memories. I love photo P1110058 of the lion cub in the golden light.

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Safaridude

One of them had a bunch of lumps of varying sizes on its side. Ron said he's seen this kind of thing before and not just on sable, on other animals, but it sometimes resolves and goes away. Not sure what it was. Any of you antelope specialists know?

 

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Not 100% sure but that may be from a tick infestation. Sable antelopes are notorious for suffering from ticks, especially in the wet season.

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