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Botswana Day at Little Kwara; Tracking expeditions with Mr.Moe; Wild Dog diaries; The great floods of 2009; Early rains and lots lots more;


madaboutcheetah
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madaboutcheetah

As I write this from my lap top at home, I take a moment to reflect how different 24 hours really is - approx 24 hours ago I was on the Moremi Air flight to drop Hector off at Kwara on my way to Maun. A couple of hours prior to that I was watching the puppies playing with each other.

 

First, as usual my Many Thanks to everyone at the Kwando camps for all the warm hospitality. My friend and guides Spencer and Moeti as usual for all the great guiding, keen sense of enthusiasm and genuine work ethic. I don't have enough words of appreciation.

 

A word about the camps themselves......... Little Kwara was wonderful as always with Lizzie firmly in charge of the camp and all the warm hospitality and professionalism.

 

Lebala was fantastic with Charles now in charge - what a great choice, indeed!!! His sense of enthusiasm for the bush and game viewing reflects the current camp atmosphere. Fantastic!!! No better dinner seat than the one between Charles and Spencer.

 

Lagoon with Lebo in charge with all the genuine hospitality and the always great camp setting, with lanterns at night. She also has her staff trained very professionally and I can't comment enough about how well they maintain the camp in "spotless" condition.

 

Indeed, Thank You to everybody ................

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madaboutcheetah

The week prior to the trip was nothing but tension - with the Botswana consulate not giving me any idea about the status of my visa. They held onto my passport for a full 3 weeks with no firm answer. Why this type of step-motherly attitude towards Indian citizens is beyond comprehension. Given all the hype about the exclusivity of Botswana and the like this type of attitude is not acceptable.

 

As time was running out, I then had to take the matter up with Kwando's office and I had to use their help to push the matter on. Finally the visa was done just in the nick of time.

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madaboutcheetah

Little Kwara is a great camp. Very well run by Lizzie - Botswana Day celebrations were fantastic. The setting for dinner that day was the open flood plains adjacent to the Hippo pool. Probably the best dinner setting I've had at any of the Kwando camps in all my trips. The staff and their enthusiasm ensured that the full camp had a great time. Steve and his choir do get the guests involved in the song and dance participation after dinner. Good times. Another huge positive - refreshing new BRUNCH menus at Little Kwara and plenty of fresh vegetables. A highlight is a spinach salad from Lizzie's kitchen.

 

The weather towards the end of September was nothing short of a disaster. It was dark, damp and gloomy - looked more like Manchester than Dry season Botswana. What was also amazing was the water all around after the annual floods. There are so many waterways and channels that it was beyond recognition. A big sand bank is constructed so that the air strip is not flooded. It was also just the start of the rains, that even though it was only light rains the light didn't ever clear up the entire time I was there save the last morning.

 

The days at Kwara was more game viewing oriented than photography. The only salvaging moment(wrt photography) was on my final morning and suddenly the sky cleared up and I got the chance to photograph a big Male Lion walking through the papyrus.

 

Fortunately, I took a video camera along - If ever, I figure out how to edit the footage and learn the art of You Tube - I will post them. Did get Spencer to film the dogs eating the impala carcass - all 12 minutes unedited!!!! and without shake.

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madaboutcheetah

Game viewing at Little kwara ....... the general game was really patchy IMHO. With all the water around, it was spread around. Although, all the usual Plains game were around it really wasn't upto potential. What was amazing was ...... Buffalo the usual dry season speciality at Kwara was not to be seen. We only saw two edgy Dagga Boys one morning. Giraffe viewing was good as ever ......... Zebra viewing was sub-par given the very high Kwara standards.

 

Predators seen:

 

Wild Dog: A pack of 7 was viewed for most of the days we were at Kwara. 6 males and a female. They really looked like they wanted to make use of the territory as they were very busy scent marking all over. They also ran in different directions while they were hunting and really didn't seem to know their way around. More misses than hits - but one evening they did bring an impala down. A memorable sighting where we were with the dog that made the kill. He ran and brought the rest of the pack to the meal and they polished it off in 12 minutes. Yes, I timed it!!!

 

I do believe the Khwai pack has split up into many fragments and this is one of the packs.

 

Leopard: We saw a half shy male Leopard. He was just starting to relax when the second vehicle arrived and he just bolted away. Either way, the light was bad. Although, it still keeps my Leopard sighting at Kwara in perfect shape.

 

Cheetahs: The Tsum Tsum Boys are hidden in the TT plains that have very very limited access. Just getting there is an adventure in itself.

 

Did have two sightings of the Female cheetah with the 4 surviving cubs. Believe it or not - they are joined by a young male cheetah (believed to be from her previous litter). Quite bizarre........ but, this Mama's boy is not camera friendly. He is skittish and every time he edged away, the normally okay cubs would follow him. They did get a scrub hare that one morning. A good sighting, indeed!!!

 

 

Lions:

 

Did see only 3 of the Magnificent 7. One by himself and two others with Mrs.One Eye (can't believe she's still around!!!!). Saw various other groups of Lions - mostly in groups of 2s and as Lions always do ...... usually sleeping. That Male Lion walking through the papyrus was really a highlight of the whole Kwara stay.

 

Didn't do the boat trip this time as the weather was mostly gloomy and not the ideal conditions for the boat trip.

 

In summary, the Dogs really were the highlight ............ Only to be topped by what followed in Lebala.

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madaboutcheetah

As we flew over the mopane to Lebala we could see water in the pans, along with ELEPHANTS. Also, just before we landed at Lebala - we saw an ELAND from the air by one of the pans. Another first!!!

 

Already mentioned the Lebala camp with Charles in Charge. Two days, he was guiding too - with Spencer, Charles and Hobbs (in relief duty) - the atmosphere was sublime. (Debates and comedy ensued when we were discussing the various members of the wild dog packs and their pack details)

 

Lebala - the game viewing was dominated by VERY GOOD WILD DOG viewing. Hobbs was one of the guides at Lebala and with him around it was always going to be WILD DOG sightings ........... On October 3rd we tracked for 4 hours (Spencer/Mr.Moe/Hobbs/Bowman) just to find the Southern Pack (a fragment of the once mighty Selinda pack) at TWIN POOLS with 9 puppies. 4 males and two females in this pack. They were then seen many many times as they moved more and more NORTH and were seen everywhere from John's Pan to Letchwe Corner to Steve's pan and Wild Dog Pan. Many many wild dog hunts and bundu bashing game drives....... watching the puppies play ..... the greeting rituals ....... the regurgitating the meat ..... the baby sitting ..... the running to the carcass etc etc.,

 

With the Dogs providing most of the action - it only made sense to keep up with them every morning and see what they were upto. This is the best Dog viewing I've had and learnt quite a lot. Was also very very lucky - as the puppies are just moving around short distances. In a month or two they can be on the concession one day and ways away the next day. May not have been able to see them on every drive. There were also a few good clear days, so was pretty HAPPY.

 

Another highlight with this pack - on my last afternoon drive. I invited the new co-manager Nikki on the drive. She hadn't been on drive in the area. What a drive it would prove to be and a great last full drive. We hunted with the dogs at White Plains (if there's one easy place to follow hunting dogs) it would be White Plains ...... they brought down an impala (one of the dogs - Terminator ex Lagoon pack) in the small mopane patch adjacent to the new airstrip. Terminator then went to fetch the pack and the puppies and they were all feeding. Suddenly on the scene appeared two HYENAS. One stole a piece of meat only to be hounded by the dogs that kept biting his rear. He then went under Hobbs' URI. Pandemonium ensued ...... when another Hyena came onto the scene and they chased each other under all 3 URIS. If all this wasn't enough - an Elephant kept trumpeting as she wasn't happy with all the chaos. No photos this evening as it was dark and gloomy and almost pitch dark.

 

A word about Terminator. He is one of the original members of the current Lagoon Pack that formed around 2005 that did den deep into the mopane. He is often the baby sitter now as he isn't the alpha male. Yet, he is still a great hunter although age does show on him.

 

With Hobbs around, it is always WILD DOGS. One day, when we were tracking the dogs and puppies - we get a radio call from Hobbs that he was with hunting dogs ............. and we raced across only to discover the other "southern pack" - pack of 6 with no puppies. They missed that morning and rested at Nari pan. Not far away, the transfer vehicle from Lagoon to Lebala found the pack with Puppies at Steve's Pan. Now we had the option to hunt with either pack that afternoon. We chose the more desperate pack - the one with pups for the afternoon drive. They hunted in deep Kalahari apple leaf that day. We saw them chase a big female kudu and then we lost them ..... trying to find them, we bump into two waking Lionesses!!!! Another first ............

 

Unfortunately, the pack lost one puppy two days ago. Hyenas the main suspect as they have been trailing the dogs all week.

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Sounds like another great trip. Shame about the light for photography, but as many people would attest, sometimes just being there and experiencing everything without the worry of the photography is liberating.

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madaboutcheetah

Reasonable general game at Lebala. Kudu, Zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, letchwe, tsessebe - viewing all decent.

 

Elephant viewing - only maybe 20% of true potential. Some good size herds mud bathing etc etc.,

 

Buffalo viewing - apparently there were big herds of 1500 before the rains. None by the time I got there. Saw 5 bulls around the Lagoon airstrip.

 

two skittish roan. 1 skittish sable (the consolation - a big majestic bull)

 

The highlight first time viewing was a 45 minute sighting of a relaxed Caracal. Clicked several photos out of excietement although the light was bad as ever!

 

A relaxed Hippo bull out of the water - and in good light!

 

Game viewing in camp was good too ...... a small herd of Elephant every afternoon. A Porcupine spotted by the waitress in the middle of dinner.

 

A rock Python between tent 3 and 4.

 

Another highlight at Lebala was watching a glorious Full moon from arond the Baobab tree. Moon-Upper instead of a sun downer. Yet another, first!!!

 

One day at Morning Tea, we got peed on by the Giant Eagle Owl up in the tree. Another first!!!

 

The Eastern side of the concession already hit by the floods in 2008 - continues to submerge into 2009 and beyond.

 

Twin Pools....... first time ever, have I seen Water next to the famous Sundowner spot. ........ Lots of water and still rising/flowing in. Call it the floods/changes in techtonic plates if you must........

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madaboutcheetah

The traditional one sublime Leopard drive continues this trip at Lebala. Mysteriously, the skies cleared and we stayed with him through the morning drive until 11AM. First time, have I seen a Leopard pose from a termite mound! He hates the sound of you gulping water from your water bottle. He will hiss at you, when he hears that noise of you gulping water. Something I did, out of thirst!!!

 

Saw many other Leopards - but, they were all not as relaxed as this guy.

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madaboutcheetah

The BOYS OF LAGOON cheetah coalition is the most unpredictable cheetah we have seen. We tracked them one morning through difficult conditions(some early morning rain etc etc.,) as they sent Mr.Moe on a wild goose chase. Found them 20 minutes too late, as they had just brought down a fully grown female Tsessebe.

 

Now if you think, after that meal they stay still for two days .......... THINK AGAIN. They sent Mr.Moe on another wild goose chase. Having trekked 10 plus KMS on a full belly scent marking the terittory. Then, when you think they are hungry 2-3 days later and will hunt - they sleep from 6 AM until the light fades and start marking again and send you on another witch hunt.

 

We switched to Lagoon for two nights to follow them. Normal people would go to Lagoon to see the Lagoon pack!

 

One day, when Mr.Moe had to go on another goose chase - we saw tracks of a single male cheetah in the area ....... HELL BROKE LOOSE. The three boys split seperate ways, walked up and down their entire territory scent marking and calling all over. We were following one of the males and Dijou the Lagoon guide was following another one. No one knows the whereabouts of the 3rd one.

 

We then returned to Lebala - but, only got patchy updates of cheetah calls and single sets of tracks. We need to await official Kwando game reports to see the outcome of this drama.

 

Hope they are okay. As they are not your "normal" coalition.

 

Overall, these were all bizarre cheetah sightings. Yet, in recent times - I have been spoilt by daily cheetah. Back to reality!!!! not this time.

 

Lots of "Tracking Time" required for these boys. Fortunately, we didn't need to break our 6 hour marathon Trek of October 2008

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madaboutcheetah

Lion viewing on the Kwando concession - saw the Two resident males (useless ones) twice. Once sleeping in the heat of the day on Zebra road. Second time yesterday morning near the airstrip in the cool of the morning, again sleeping.

 

Two Lionesses, when we bumped into them following the dogs in the Kalahari apple leaf. After dark, we couldn't follow the dogs - so watched them drink incredible amounts of water from the pan across from the baobab tree.

 

Another shy Lioness that ran off into the mopane one morning. Didn't bother following her.

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madaboutcheetah

Lagoon pack is doing well and running wild. They made a kill in front of Tent 1 - two days after we left Tent 1 and returned to Lebala.

 

Pack is 11 adults and 8 pups. I didn't see them, as they were far from Lagoon the two days I went up there for cheetah.

 

The Southern Pack - as I awaited my Moremi Air flight yesterday morning - we heard from Hobbs on the radio that the pack was about to head into the Selinda Reserve. They were at Motswiri Pan.

 

THE END

 

Happy to answer any questions.

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Absolutely fantastic trip once again despite the elements beeing a bit against you. The wild dog situation seems fantastic at the moment. Is it only me or are the dogs making a little comeback?

 

Thanks so much for sharing, this makes this lunch the best in quite a while :D

 

Good to hear that Lebo is still doing a wonderful job, and exciting with Charles as manager at Lebala.

 

/Tom

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madaboutcheetah

Hi Tom,

 

Thanks. Think the not so great Lion viewing too on the Kwando concession (atleast outside of the mopane veldt) is something that the dogs like. Hyenas making a comeback though. Their numbers reduced when Milky Eye supposedly killed off many Hyena pups. Now there is a Hyena den near lagoon - I'm not sure of exact details as I didn't go see it.

 

I hear that there was a good looking Namibian Black Maned Lion on the concession not so long ago. But, these two useless ones chased him away!

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Hari, great report, enjoyed it very much. Love the reference to the useless lions … very funny!

 

Looking forward to seeing a few photos some time. :D

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Sounds as though you had a fantastic time as usual, Hari. Unnfortunately I won't be going to Kwando when I go

 

to Bots next week. I booked in August 2008, and hadn't met Spencer then. I'm looking forward to the photos, I

 

hope you get them up before I leave. I hope I don't get too much rain, I had enough in March. I'm really envious

 

of all the wild dogs.

 

 

Jan

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Hari,

 

Good to have you back, even if it means you're no longer in the Linyanti. I have gone a very deep shade of green - more Caracal ... 45 minutes... Dogs in bucket loads and being peed on by an Eagle owl!

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madaboutcheetah

Thanks, all .......

 

Jan - Spencer sends his warm regards to you.

 

Jan and Twaffle - Can't promise you photos in a week's time. I get to work tomorrow and then it's Diwali weekend. But, I shall promise you that they'd be ready by the time you return home. I'm sure you'll have a great trip as always.

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Guest sniktawk

Hari,

 

Sounds like you did quite well considering the peculiar weather, nice too hear that the dogs continue to do well in the area(no change to the norm then).

 

Whilst I would be more than happy to have Charles in charge at Lebala with Spencer as well, what happens if this is not the case and you end up with the deadbeats we had in July? This is what so frustrates me with Kwando and eveybody else, for one off visitors who know no better this is OK but not for me!!

 

If I ever decided to visit again (highly unlikely) I obviously need you as my lucky mascot!

 

Cheers

 

Ken

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madaboutcheetah

Hi Ken,

 

Saw your photo album at Lagoon. Hadn't seen those pics before in your gallery.

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Sounds like you had another great time.

 

Welcome back.

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Welcome back, and thanks for the trip report.

 

Too bad about the rainy weather. Forecast looks a little better for next week when I get there. *I am so excited!* :)

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Beau Gust, have a fantastic time … hope you see lots of wild dogs amongst all the other wonderful sights.

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Welcome back, Hari. A very nice trip report. Sounds like you had a great time despite the weather. Dogs rule, apparently, but you were not denied your beloved cheetah!

 

Cheers,

Rick

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MisterAviator

Hari,

 

Loved the trip report!! The crazy weather began while I was there a few days before you arrived. The skies were also quite smoky from farmers buring their fields in Namibia. The whole atmosphere (the mostly barren trees, the layer of brown leaves on the ground, the misty weather, and the smoky skies) added an almost spooky quality to the experience. My wife kept telling me, "I fell like we're in a horror movie!" There was nothing horrible about it though. Sure, the photos lacked a certain sparkle, but the flat lighting actually improved the quality of the video I shot. I'm looking forward to seeing some of your images.

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madaboutcheetah

Thanks all for your kind comments.

 

MisterAviator - Apparently, there was a huge storm in the Linyanti just before I got there - so apparently the fires died down. Hazy skies wasn't so much a problem when I was there - the main problem was the gloom and doom weather system. But, you are correct August into September and October could be a problem with the fires from Namibia.

 

Also, anyone who read the article in the September edition of the Air Botswana inflight magazine regarding the floods - there was a mention that the great floods of 2009 is nothing compared to what is expected in the next year or two.

 

Talking of Air Botswana - the days in which they operate the 737s instead of the ATRs. The flight is only approx 1hr and a bit between Maun and JNB. A much better aircraft.

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