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Botswana Dec 2011- Duma Tau, Tubu Tree & Kwara


stokeygirl

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Great report. Looking forward to the Kwara portion as I will be there next month.

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The other vehicles gave up but MT persevered, speculating that this was where the mother had hidden the kill, so he jostled the vehicle into the bush. Sure enough we found them both settled under the

The next day I joined another guide, EZ, a French lady and newly arrived honeymooners from Australia for a drive, whilst the rest of my vehicle did a mekoro and short walk before their 10:30 flight.

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samburumags

Exciting stuff, you had a great trip. Everybody seems to be away, going soon, or just back at the moment! :rolleyes: If only it was me ah well here's to 2013!

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Stokeygirl your photos of the leopards are lovely. What camera and lens were you using? Monopod...bean bag? What works for you? Patsy

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stokeygirl

I have a Canon 450D, with the 100-400 L series lens. I was hand holding it. I have a monopod, but I didn't use it. For many of the sightings, the subjects were moving about and having the monopod attached was just a bit unwieldy.

 

I'm hoping to upgrade to the 7D at some point.

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stokeygirl

Back to the report......

 

I was expecting to land at Shinde (the adjacent Kerr Downey concession) airstrip and have a 2 hour drive to Kwara, as I’d been told they were renovating their airstrip, so I was pleasantly surprised to land at Kwara itself as they had just reopened the airstrip a few days ago. When I arrived, the camp was full with one large group who were preparing to depart. I found out they had been fruitlessly searching for leopard for the last couple of days.

 

I also met Tom, who had been my guide last year at Lagoon and he would be guiding the other vehicle.

 

I was told that more guests were expected- a family of 5, who I was to share a vehicle with, a family of 4 (the Australian family who had been at Tubu Tree with me) and a couple, who were to share a second vehicle to make two groups of six. My guide, TJ, who had picked me up from the airstrip, told me that the other family that I’d be sharing with were staying for 3 nights, so I would probably have the vehicle to myself for the last two.

 

At tea, I met my vehicle mates- a group from around the US, of two ladies in their 40s, one set of parents and the other lady’s father. They were all first time safari goers, on their second camp (from Tau pan). A Canadian couple who were joining the Australian family were also first timers.

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stokeygirl

We headed off on our afternoon drive. In the first hour, we didn’t get far as the older lady in the group had a lot of questions about every tree, bird or animal that we saw. We came across a nice jackal family of parents and two puppies, and one of the puppies was playing with the remains of a guinea fowl wing.

 

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We left the sighting with the gentleman next to me complaining about being sat in the sun, and how the covered vehicles at Tau Pan had been better. Kwara has abandoned the Uris in favour of Land Cruisers, but still completely open with no covers. I was told the Uris were being reconditioned and sent to Lebala and Lagoon. From my experience last year in Lagoon, I think the tough Uris are still needed to cope with all the off roading required to keep up with the dogs hunting. The Cruisers definitely gave a more comfortable ride than the Land Rovers used by Wilderness. However, they were longer which made it a struggle even in the second row to hear the guide. Also, I imagine it makes vehicle positioning more difficult to get everyone a good view.

 

We moved on and stopped for various general game, including some nice zebras reflected in the water.

 

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stokeygirl

Then the spotter spotted some shapes on a grassy mound. Cheetah! I’d been expecting to have to drive all the way out to Tsum Tsum to see any cheetah, so this was more than I’d hoped for. It turned out to be a mother with three 6 month old cubs. They gave us some beautiful poses in the fading light, and the three youngsters entertained us by chasing each other around and stalking each other. The guides later told me it had been weeks since they’d seen this mother and cubs, so I was very lucky.

 

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stokeygirl

TJ asked us if we wanted to stay or go for sundowners and I think the others had had enough and wanted their drinks but as the light was very bad by this stage, I was happy to leave them and we parked up by a pool with a couple of hippos to enjoy our gin and tonics. Whilst having sundowners, we heard a lion calling quite close by, so when we started the night drive we headed in that direction. This was the only camp that had done what I would consider to be a proper night drive. At Duma Tau and Tubu Tree there had been half hearted attempts to get a spotlight out but you can’t really do a proper night drive with a guide trying to operate the spotlight and drive at the same time. Personally I am dubious about the need for a spotter as well as a guide in daylight, but on a night drive it is essential.

 

It didn’t take long to find the big male, walking towards us and we followed him for a bit. He walked into an area of denser bush and we followed, mainly I think to keep track of him for the other vehicle which was approaching. Once the other vehicle caught up with him, we backed out and drove round to a clear area where TJ predicted he would emerge. Sure enough, we found him again resting on the open ground. He flopped into sleeping lion pose, and we left him to drive back to camp.

 

We saw a few more nocturnal species, genet, scrub hares and my favourite, spring hares. I haven’t seen that many spring hares in the past, but I love them, bouncing around like kangaroos.

 

Over dinner, I briefly chatted to a guide who was one of two visiting from Karen Blixen camp in the Mara North conservancy in Kenya. Kwara have an exchange program with this camp and were hosting the Kenyan guides for a few weeks. Tom and another guide would be making a return visit in February. I mentioned that I would be visiting Kicheche in February, who are neighbours of Karen Blixen Camp. I was pleased to hear the Karen Blixen guides say the Kicheche guys are always out first in the morning, so the KB guides radio them to find the sightings.

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stokeygirl

It rained most of the night and was still raining heavily in the morning. No one was particularly keen to go out, including the guides, who said there wouldn’t be much to be seen in the rain.

 

At about 8:30,TJ made the rounds of the tents to let us know that the rain had stopped. As I’d found at Duma Tau, it wasn’t possible to tell this from inside as water dripping from the trees above sounded like rain for long after the rain had finished. So we went out, but the reprieve didn’t last long and soon we were donning our rain ponchos. The rain quickly became heavy and the ponchos were not particularly waterproof, so soon we were rather damp. We all decided that we weren’t going to see anything in this weather and asked to go back to camp. The journey back must have taken a good hour, or perhaps it just seemed that way, but by the time I got back my trousers had been drenched through the poncho. I had a hot shower and then brunch.

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stokeygirl

The rain continued until about 3pm when it finally stopped, and we were able to go out on our afternoon drive at 4:30 as usual. I took a few shots of little bee eaters, and we watched some elephants for a while.

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Just as we were climbing down for sun downers, TJ got a call that the lion pride had been located and they were on the hunt. We didn’t rush to get there, and by the time we got to the area and found them it was too dark for photography. However, we followed them and they were clearly hungry and on a mission. Just as we were about to leave them, TJ noticed one female bringing up the rear had stopped and had assumed a stalking pose. She was eyeing up a group of 3 or 4 tsessebe. By this point it was dark, although a full moon was rising, and we had the spotlight on her. TJ moved the vehicle to a position where we could just about make out the lioness and the tsessebes in the moonlight, and we turned off all the lights to give her a chance to hunt. We waited for some time and eventually heard a commotion and thunder of hooves. She’d failed.

 

So we left the lioness and continued our night drive back to camp. We saw spring and scrub hares, and two lovely serval, one of which was hunting frogs. So we saw our kill for the night! Just next to camp we got a great view of a giant eagle owl sat on a low branch only metres from the vehicle.

 

I was keeping my fingers crossed for no rain overnight so we could track the lions in the morning, and thankfully it remained dry although when we left camp in the morning it was spitting. I hoped it would remain dry, not least because I was running out of dry clothes and would soon be reduced to doing game drives in my pyjamas.

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stokeygirl

We were a little late in getting out, as my vehicle mates were a bit prone to dallying and by the time we left at 6:20, the Little Kwara vehicles were ahead of us and already radioing sightings. Two pairs of male lions had been found, and we came across one of the pairs lying in the road, doing what lions do best.

 

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We watched them for a bit but they barely raised their heads so we went onward, with a view to returning to where the pride had been seen last night and tracking them from there. We made a few stops, including to watch some yellow billed storks fishing for frogs, bashing them on the ground to break their bones before swallowing them whole.

 

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stokeygirl

In the end, the Little Kwara vehicles were one step ahead and had already found the pride. It looked like they had had an unsuccessful night, probably partly to do with the moonlight. There was no evidence of any kill, and they were hungrily watching some tsessebes which were grazing at a safe distance.

 

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We watched them for a while- one female got up and, after a brief display of lion yoga, walked over to flop down in the shade.

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One of my vehicle mates, a rather corpulent gentleman, was inspired to emulate the lions and fell asleep, bearded chin on chest and snoring gently.

 

Eventually, they all (lions, not guests) settled into sleeping lion mode and we left them to continue our drive.

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We saw another pair of jackals with two puppies, but this time of the black backed rather than side striped variety.

 

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Back to camp for brunch.

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stokeygirl

That afternoon we were going for a boat trip to a heronry. Even though it had looked to be brightening up, some ominous rolls of thunder in the afternoon were a warning that we were not to be so lucky, and as I got ready to go to tea, the heavens opened. I waited for the rain to ease from torrential to heavy, and put up my brolly to go to tea. We had tea, waiting for the rain to ease further and at 5pm we went out for the boat trip. It was still raining, and my camera remained packed away even when we got to the heronry. It was getting quite dim by that point anyway. At 6:30 we turned around to head back. The clouds were clearing and we had a lovely rainbow and sunset. We then did a short night drive back to camp.

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stokeygirl

The next day I joined another guide, EZ, a French lady and newly arrived honeymooners from Australia for a drive, whilst the rest of my vehicle did a mekoro and short walk before their 10:30 flight. The others wanted to see cheetah, as did I, so we were heading to Tsum Tsum which is the area frequented by the coalition of three brothers. We left early for once, and drove straight there with no stops to give us the best chance of locating the three brothers before they retired to shade. Sure enough, we found them pretty quickly, lying in the open.

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I caught a few yawns, some cheetah yoga and some territorial marking.

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They moved around a few times, before finally settling under a bush.

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So we left them to have some tea and quickly checked on them, still lazing there, before starting the drive back to camp.

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stokeygirl

On the way back, we saw a Marshall Eagle, two yellow billed kites and a bateleur swooping low over one area and went to investigate but found no evidence of a kill and the birds all disappeared.

 

I took some photos of an open billed stork posing with a croc, and we watched two male impalas locking horns.

 

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We also found 3 black backed jackals, parents and a juvenile, seemingly optimistically harrying two tssesebe calves.

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After we left them, we heard them alarm calling and turned around to investigate. We followed the calls off road amongst the trees and when we found the jackals, we headed in the direction they’d been looking. We found fresh leopard tracks which we followed, but the tracks doubled back and we couldn’t find the leopard. It was probably watching us from the bush somewhere and was having no trouble keeping ahead of us in this terrain.

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stokeygirl

We got back to camp for brunch and my vehicle mates had already departed. The Canadian couple were also leaving that day, and 8 new guests were coming in. Despite what TJ had said, it was seeming unlikely that I would get the vehicle to myself for my last two nights. The 8 incoming guests were a family of four and two couples. I would have to wait until tea to see. Over brunch, EZ mentioned that one of the guides from Little Kwara had seen a lioness with 2 cubs the day before on the western side of the concession. He agreed that this would be a good mission to set for TJ that afternoon.

 

As on the previous day, a storm started in the afternoon, but this time a little earlier so that by tea time it was more or less over, although the sky was pretty gloomy.

 

At tea I met the newly arrived guests, a family of 4 from Australia, a German couple who had been travelling in Namibia, and two German ladies. I first started to chat to the two ladies, or rather to one of them, as the other didn’t really speak English. When I asked how long they were staying she said they wanted to leave right away. She had found five spiders in her room, was upset by the lack of mosquito nets and said she couldn’t stay and wanted to go back to Chobe Safari lodge where they had come from. This place is too wild for us, she said. I didn’t have much to say but to nod sympathetically, and extricate myself to join TJ and the German couple. All 4 Germans were to join our vehicle.

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stokeygirl

As we set off, one of the managers was telling the arachnophobic lady that they had found her a mosquito net so she seemed a little happier but was still asking him to arrange for them to fly back out the next day. I think they were supposed to be staying 2 nights.

 

The drive started painfully slowly, with TJ trying to stop for everything for the new arrivals, although it was hard to tell whether they were really interested. We had some excitement when we came across a herd of elephants, and one female took a dislike to us, even though we were at a good distance. She charged us and TJ turned the vehicle and drove away as fast as possible. She kept coming, and a couple of times we stopped and she appeared again, chasing us. The whole herd also started coming after us so we vacated the area at full pelt. TJ said this elephant was a known trouble maker, and thought that at one stage in her life she had been in a hunting concession. Although there are none left in the area any more, there have been in the past, and elephants have legendarily long memories.

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stokeygirl

We stopped for sundowners, and as we were climbing out of the vehicle we heard a lion calling close by. We all piled back in and TJ headed in the direction of the calls.

 

We soon found a male lion walking on the road.

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He was calling, and there was a distant reply. He was one of the coalition of seven looking to meet up with one of his brothers. By this stage it was spotlight time, and we drove in front of the lion several times and watched him pass, very close to the vehicle each time.

 

The German ladies, as it turned out, were not only scared of spiders but of lions too. They were cringing away from the side of the vehicle, muttering “stop, stop, stop” as we drove close to the lion, and at one stage said now we have had enough photos and we can go. I slightly lost my temper at this stage and snapped that it was all very well to be scared of spiders as that didn’t affect anyone else but they were spoiling the drive for others. TJ asked if we should go and as I couldn’t stand any more of their girly squealing I said fine, let’s go. He said afterwards he would have followed the lion until he met up with his brother.

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stokeygirl

We had an uneventful drive back to camp and when I arrived I was still fuming and about to ask to be moved (or for them to be moved) to another vehicle, but I heard the manager tell them as they got off that it had been arranged for them to leave at 8am the next day. Over dinner, I sat with the Australian family who were good fun and had come from a walking camp in the Timbavati and were loving their first safari.

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The next morning, it was just the German couple and me. He didn’t speak any English but she was very nice and they had already seen quite a bit in Namibia. The plan was to head to the Four Rivers area, which was where the guide from Little Kwara, Jacob, had seen the lioness with cubs. First, TJ wanted to check the area around the boat station as he’d heard a leopard calling from that direction about 3am. We quickly found tracks, and the other vehicle joined us to scour the area but eventually we gave up and continued onwards.

 

Nothing much eventful was happening, except I spotted the first buffalo I’d seen so far in Kwara.

 

Then I heard on the radio a guide saying a mona Nkwe (male leopard) had been spotted. The radio was breaking up and TJ was struggling to find out, via messages relayed from camp, whether the leopard was mobile or stationary. He eventually ascertained it was stationary and then told us that the leopard we’d been tracking earlier had been spotted and did we want to carry on or head back 45 mins drive to where the leopard had been spotted. I was tempted to go on, having had such good leopard sightings at Tubu Tree. I was a bit afraid of a long drive just to find a leopard sat in deep bush or worse, disappeared altogether, and then the morning’s drive would be wasted. However, in the end we decided to go back.

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stokeygirl

The leopard had been spotted by one of the trackers, Mopane, who had been picking up staff from the boat station and had seen the tracks, then heard alarming francolins which had led him to the leopard. He agreed to sit with the leopard until we arrived, although we had to hurry as he had an airstrip pick up to do at 10am.

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Really enjoying your pictures and report. I too have a 100-400mm on a 7D as my primary setup and hope to get pictures as nice as yours.

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Atravelynn

Leopards galore, cheetahs galore! And of course some lions! Wonderful shots. Very responsive staff to your guide concern.I'm finding your report to be quite lustrous.

Edited by Atravelynn
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madaboutcheetah

Ez is ezikiel? I haven't seen him in years. Great that he's back ......

 

Lovely to see the cheetah brothers and thanks for posting!!!!

 

Who are the current managers at Kwara?

Edited by madaboutcheetah
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I'd have to say your cheetah pics are my favorite so far. Really nice work. Thanks for sharing.

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