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Lovely Little Kwara; cheetahs everywhere; The Wild Wild "wild dog" game drive; new adventures in new places etc etc.,


madaboutcheetah

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madaboutcheetah

Hello All,

 

As I get ready to get reality punched in the face - just want to say that I had a super time in Botswana on safari. Clear blue skies with the feel of winter around the corner and some once in a lifetime moments.

 

First, I must thank my friend and guide Spencer Mathambo of Kwando for yet another brilliant safari. He is not just a brilliant guide, but, a super human being as many of you already know.........

 

A word about Little Kwara - it is now my new favourite camp. The camp atmosphere and vibes were superb! Amongst the best stays I've ever had and kudos to Lizzie and Keya who run a great camp. They went above and beyond their call of duty in ensuring that all guests were very well looked after. Between Lizzie, Keya, Janet, the resident guides Steve and Hobbs and rest of the LK staff the camp atmosphere was totally awesome.

 

Onto the game sightings -

 

Most of the productive game viewing was out on the Tsum Tsum open plains. They probably had a lot of rain early in the season, but, did not rain during my visit. The floods however are right round the corner and you can see the rising waters.

 

1.) The 3 cheetah boys everyday on the Tsum Tsum plains (they killed twice in 3 days) - Red Letchwe the first time, and impala the second. Did the usual all day stay with them and watch them hunt and eat the carcass thing.........

 

2.) The female cheetah with 5 cubs (2 month old). Saw them 3 times - including a very scary gut-wrenching escape from a Nasty Male Lion. Will have more details shortly about this episode.

 

3.) 3 packs of wild dog on a single game drive - a pack of 6 dogs, a pack of 15 and a pack of 4. Will not give out details of this yet - but, trust me........ even Spencer was nearly in shock with the drama that unfolded.

 

4.) 3 pairs of skittish cheetah (probably just moving through the area and new) - two young males, two different pairs of female and sub-adult.

 

5.) Herd of sable

 

6.) Good plains game consisting of great Zebra sightings, wildebeest, letchwe, impala, kudu, bull elephants. Buffalo herds not out as of yet.

 

7.) Rushing home from Tsum Tsum one day desperate to shower and clean up at 5PM bumped into a Lioness who whacked a warthog right in front of the car - all before we could even stop the car

 

8.) On a night drive - we heard impala alarm calls, my tracker Alfred's spot light catches a jumping impala with a Leaping Leopard . Missed.......... Don't know who the Leopard was, but, the great Kwara Female and her daughter have been supposedly hanging around in Shinde for quite some time. So, did not see her. We did find tracks right by camp on two or three days - it can only be her, I think........... who knows?

 

Only saw one of the 7 male Lions. We did our best to search for them .......... were hiding, no tracks even. Went as far as Four Rivers on my final morning to look for them one last time.

 

All in all, I highly recommend Little Kwara. Great gameviewing, amazing team of people who go above and beyond their call of duty.

 

More details soon about some of these gamedrives and details of new adventures in new places too - Nxai Pan and Tau Pan.

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Atravelynn

Welcome home from what appears to be a most exciting trip. Terrific highlights! Hope you are not punched too hard.

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Geoff

Welcome back Hari.... looking forward to the details.

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twaffle

Sounds like some amazing wildlife sightings. Look forward to hearing more.

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madaboutcheetah

The Wild wild wild......... Wild Dogs.

 

One morning, my intent was to photograph the general game as the 3 cheetah boys were well fed from the previous day. They weren't going to move too much........ so, after spending some time working with good light on Zebras etc etc., we deceided to spend some time looking for some tracks for the 7 male Lions....... suddenly we get a call from Hobbs who was on his way back to camp that he bumped into a pack of 6 wild dogs. We weren't too far, and we caught up. Two of the 6 were the lightest dogs I've ever seen (Spencer calls them Albino dogs). Soon, they were looking for shade on the fringes of the mopane.

 

Now, with dogs....... experience always says that they are going to sleep through the heat of the day and would go hunting as it cools down. Now, with this new situation I knew we were in for a very long day...... and this would turn to night time. So, our intent was to get back to camp quick just to take a shower and radioed camp to organize food so that we can bring with us. We headed back at 3PM. Ouch! the dogs were missing!!!! Could only have been spooked by something.......... we spent a half hour tracking in the mopane. The other Little Kwara vehicles were also getting an early start as the dogs were around. Hobbs and his guests are taking their High Tea in the general vicinity. On his way, Steve bumps into the female cheetah and her cubs feeding on a fresh impala carcass. Now, I get more excieted and urge Spencer to head to the cheetah. We spent time watching her and the cubs feed on the impala.

 

Suddenly out in the plains we see two young kudus chased by one of the Albino dogs. About 50 meters from the cheetah family. As the cars head there, the dog brings down a kudu right in front of us!!! It starts eating the animal still alive and this goes on for a good 3 or 4 minutes. Finally, after the kudu dies....... the dog leaves the carcass and heads off to find the rest of the pack and bring them to the kill. Now, it takes all of a half hour for the dogs to finish off the kill and regroup etc etc., In hindsight........ if we were with the dogs and saw the greeting ritual etc etc., and then got off the hunt from scratch - I doubt if we would have caught up with them during the actual bringing down of the Kudu.

 

Just as the light went flat - or almost flat........ we see animals running up and down the open plains. A brand new pack and they obviously were on the trail of this pack. It was a pack of 15 and they got to find the pack of 6. A well fed pack could not out run these dogs - they were all over a male dog and ripped him out and killed him. The other 5 got away. The noise of the interaction with dogs all over the place was something incredible.......... Soon, the pack of 15 went away and disappeared in the darkness.

 

After late sundowners and taking in all the excietement, we headed off to camp only to find a pack of 4 at Honeymoon Pan en route.

 

What a day?

 

We can expect 3 versions of You Tube videos from my fellow Little Kwara guests - A UK version, A USA version and a Portugese Version. Can't wait.........

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tonypark

Phew!

 

You've probably seen more action on that safari than some people see in a lifetime!

 

Great report.

 

Tony

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UNREAL... Great to have you back, and with a head full of those experiences... fantastic.

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twaffle

Wow! If you had written and posted that yesterday, I would have thought it was an April Fools joke. Who would have thought you'd see so much in one day! :(

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madaboutcheetah

Thanks all for your kind words.

 

Now to the cheetah escape: Sometime during the wild dog incident, she took off with the cubs to safety and left the half eaten impala right there. We did fear that the pack of 15 looked too aggressive and were in a foul mood.

 

The next day, more drama............. we started off by inspecting the wild dog carcass - not touched by Hyenas or anybody.

 

Next thing, we find in a distance the cheetah mum running away and close to the Male Lion. She tried to divert attention towards herself and was keeping her cubs at safety. The big Male Lion was intent on trouble that day...... kept following. At one point, we only saw two cubs for about 10 minutes....... very nervous!!! But, I think the other cubs were just hidden in the grasses as they were running away.

 

We kept well away from the cheetahs as they were in a sensitive situation and we had to keep our distance. Would you believe it - the dead wild dog suddenly drew the Big Boy's attention and he went to inspect it....... He just sniffed it and let it alone. But, this took up some time and she was able to buy some time and was able to run with all 5 cubs into the woodland around Tsum Tsum.

 

Got some nice pics of the big boy when he went to inspect the carcass and then got into a staring match as he watched the cheetahs escape in the distance.

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madaboutcheetah

The three cheetah brothers hunting - just your usual text book wait all day and you'll be rewarded thing. The first one with the letchwe was frustrating as it took until 2 30Pm for them to do it and there were long intervals of them just sleeping. The second one, just before noon (the impala). Both hunts were not your text book cheetah high speed chase. They were just cleaver ambush techniques.

 

Must say, I was very delighted that the other car with Steve's guests (a group of 4 - 20 something Americans on their first safari) were very enthusiastic in staying out all day to see the impala hunt.

 

To sum up the sightings at LK - there were the other vehicles going out to see Lionesses and things. I think one day they were trying to hunt Letchwe etc etc., but, we didn't respond to any of those sightings so wouldn't know specifics.

 

I didn't do the boat trip this time as the heronery isn't active this time of the year and the predator viewing was just too phenomenal to pass up.

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Atravelynn

It really does border on April Fools. Looking forward to your photos, but no hurry. You have to acclimate to civilization.

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Really fabulous Hari... Who among us would not want to have been with you on this trip? Your photos (and the videos) will be a real treat to look forward to...

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madaboutcheetah

Thanks, Rick. Shall edit and process photographs in a few days. Have some social and work obligations to catch up with.

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madaboutcheetah

New Kwando camps - Nxai Pan camp and Tau Pan camp.

 

First, let me give a brief introduction of the camps themselves as they are new.

 

These new camps are very different from the other camps we are all used to. Besides the familiar smiles and the personal Kwando interaction, you might not recognize them. The camps are obviously designed for the extreme temperatures and are really very nice. Both are similar in design with some small differences. I think IMHO Tau Pan edges out Nxai Pan mainly due to the stunning location and the subtle lanterns in the evening. Tau Pan is set on a ridge overlooking the picturesque Tau Pan itself and is stunning! Nxai Pan has a setting of some open plains with a nice baobab. Animals come around camp at Nxai, and did see zebras, giraffe and elephant.

 

One huge difference is the brand new Land Cruisers that they have. Huge trucks with lots of leg room and space for your equipment and very very comfortable. Still the two rows of 3 arrangement. This comes with a roof top (think can be removed, including the poles and frame if you wish). I'm not sure, but, I think the canopy top here is mainly due to the long drives in the CKGR and really a lack of any shade during most of the day.

 

Both camps employ a tracker. Ofcourse, there is no tracking in the parks - but, the trackers are there for the cultural experience to help you learn about bushmen skills, tools, culture etc etc., Since there are no night drives you need to be in camp at 7Pm (atleast this time of the year) hence there are some cultural programmes in the evening. Both camps do it a little differently - both entertaining and informative (usually around the fire). Scooper and KG(Trackers) really are very entertaining at Tau - the real bushmen. While they are out on game drive they really do have Eagle eyes - I'm certain these guys can track down animals on foot if they got the chance to do so at the other places. Similarly, there's Kaiser and shoes (at Nxai). Kaiser was my tracker at Nxai - enthusiastic young man with lots of ambition and pride.

 

I was lucky enough while at Nxai Pan camp to catch up with Alwyn, who was there on some work related assignments and it was really a chilled out relaxed atmosphere with evenings around the camp fire. Camp is normally managed by BK and Dineo.

 

Tau Pan camp is run by Carl and Chane, who are entrusted with the growing pains of a new camp in the harsh Kalahari enviornment. Freezing cold to Very hot to everything in between....... and issues that crop up along the way

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madaboutcheetah

Assistant managers - Carlos (Nxai) and Hilda (Tau)

 

Activities: The game drives are not your normal Kwando adrenaline rush ones. Strictly no off-roading or tracking off roads...... so very different. Yet, a different experience.

 

Nxai Pan itself isn't such a big park with game drives usually around the pan itself. I think I saw the tail end of the zebra herds (or are they resident there? sorry I'm no expert). Good varitey of plains game - springbok herds, impala, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, some Gemsbok, the famous light colored elephants of Nxai(due to the soil). We did see a pair of cheetah brothers every morning, albeit at a distance from the road through binocs. You can sit at the waterhole in the evenings and see the animlas head there to drink. Apparently, in the dry months the Lions pick off springbok out there..... as seen in "Roar" by Tim Liversedge.

Other must do thing out here is a day picnic out to Baines Baobabs. I know they are only trees...... but, I suppose one must experience different things too. The guides resident are George, Theko and I think Donald was out on leave. Theko will entertain you with his story of the straying/lost/ angry Hippo that attacked him when he camped out around Baines Baobab.

 

Both camps also do a short walk around the periphery of camp. The focus is obviously on the little things - the botony, tracks, eco system etc etc.,

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madaboutcheetah

Did a drive out to Kgama Kgama pan too from Nxai. I didn't get the impression that too many people head there - I don't particularly recommend it and any animals out there are really skittish and run away. We saw zebras, Gemsbok and things. All in all, Nxai is a good change of pace camp and a place you need to visit.

 

Tau Pan camp - obviously, very close to the Tau Pan itself. The pan is stunning and has resident herds of Gemsbok, Springbok, some giraffe, wildebeest. They are all very relaxed and is a great location to just hang out....

 

The CKGR is all about the magic of the Kalahari, the great open spaces, the landscapes, the changing terrain, the snow flake grasses beaming in the morning light, the lovely night skies and stars, the Gemsbok herds, the Springboks, the ground squirrels, the black-backed jackals, the black korhaans, the pale chanting goshawks, the Kori bustards, the ostritches, the secretary birds......... Although the great predators are all present and ofcourse, game viewing is all luck of the draw - this wouldn't be the emphasis of a CKGR visit. I did see cheetah in Passarge valley (stunning and beautiful) and 3 young sub-adult Lions in Deception valley. Although not close to the road. Strict no-off road rules and adhered to by the Kwando guides. Resident guides are Hector who was out on leave (Lebala fame), Alberto (Famous BB's brother- Selinda fame) and Bilipe (spelling?). Great trackers too in Scooper and KG and Name.

 

This camp is also about long drives to get to other areas like Passarge, Deception Valley, the stunning Sunday Pan etc etc., In brief a stunning park, very beautiful, very picturesque and gives you an appreciation of the great outdoors (especially when I come from the second most populated country in the world).

 

I'm certainly not an expert on these areas, so will try my best to try and answer questions, if any.

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Game Warden

Thankyou for such a detailed and informative report MAC - like others have mentioned I'm keen to see the photographs.

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madaboutcheetah

Didn't mention the Red Hartebeest - yet another species of antelope.

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wildaboutafrica

Thank you for the great report. It brought back some good memories.

We were at Little Kwara camp in Dec. 2007 and will never forget this amazing experience.

The staff was wonderful in every way and our tracker and guide were really good. During our stay we saw a group of 19 wild dogs, some young hyenas, lots of lions, etc. etc. etc.

We are talking about going back in a few years, so I will be reading this forum for some great stories and input.

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madaboutcheetah

Thanks, WildaboutAfrica. Glad you enjoyed it! It's the same pack - the Khwai pack that moves through Kwara from time to time. They are only 15 now - but, perhaps will have a successful denning season this year.

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twaffle

Welcome Wildaboutafrica … love your avatar.

 

Hari, I hope you are hard at work on your photos!! :P

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madaboutcheetah

Hi Twaffle,

 

It's going to take some time - I won't even start working on them until mid-week next week. Got a get-together with cousins and family this weekend.

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twaffle

Oh well, family must come first I suppose.

We will wait patiently for a little longer. :P

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wildaboutafrica

Welcome Wildaboutafrica … love your avatar.

 

Well.....Thank you!

 

That picture was taken in KwaZulu Natal, SA.

 

I love ALL birds.

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africaaddict

Hi Hari

 

Great report! And such great predator viewing for that time of year, a real bonus.

Look forward to the images and video links.

 

Cheers

Marc

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