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Vlad the Impala

Botswana - Moremi and Khwai

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Vlad the Impala

BOTSWANA TRIP REPORT - MOREMI (4 NIGHTS), KHWAI (3 NIGHTS)

 

Since I’ve enjoyed reading many other trip reports on this forum since joining SafariTalk, I thought it only fair that I attempt my own, albeit abbreviated, report of a recent trip to Botswana. This will mainly be a collection of photos with brief descriptions of each day, as I'm sure my narrative skills fare poorly in comparison to others on here.

 

This was my first time in Botswana, and my first ever safari as part of a guided group. My limited previous safari experience has been confined to self-drives in South Africa, primarily in and around the Kruger Park. For this trip I travelled with my Dad. The rest of the 16-strong group were unknown to us before the trip.

 

The trip lasted seven nights - Four nights in Moremi (Xakanaxa), and three in Khwai.

 

Highlights of the trip included:

 

Camping - this was my first time under canvas on safari and the experience of sleeping in the middle of a game reserve was my highlight of the trip

 

Aardwolf

 

Two good leopard sightings

 

Male Lion making buffalo kill

 

Brief daylight sightings of cheetah, wild cat, side-striped jackal, and honey badger

 

28 mammal species

 

176 bird species

 

Camera-friendly Wood Sandpiper and Tawny Eagle!

 

A couple of 'interesting' water crossings

 

Mokoro trip

 

Astronomy lesson

 

 

Day 1 – Maun to Moremi

Just after lunch on the first day, we arrived from Joburg, and were met at Maun by our two guides, Disho and Nkosi. After being directed to one of two open vehicles waiting to take us to Moremi, we climbed aboard and began introductions with our fellow passengers. Soon we were bouncing along the tarred road north of Maun towards the reserve, re-familiarising ourselves with the more common birds of southern Africa seen along the roadside. We passed Rollers, Drongos, and Hornbills, before stopping to watch a small group of Abdim’s Stork feeding amongst the roadside scrub.

 

Before long, the tarred road finshed and the bouncing increased as we made our way towards the entrance gate to Moremi itself. Once through the gate, we took up a more leisurely pace – stopping to watch a breeding elephant herd just inside the gate, and then again for our first sightings of Impala and Kudu.

 

However, our first major sighting, and what turned out to be sightings highlight of the trip, was waiting for us an hour’s drive further into the park. An aardwolf! The first I’d ever seen, and at the perfect time of day for photos, with a low sun casting a beautiful golden light. We watched it for a while, going about its business in the long grass – disappearing from sight briefly before reappearing again nearby, offering only tantalising glimpses when it raised its head to check out its surroundings. I took a few photos of it partially hidden behind grasses, but at one point it stood up on slightly higher ground and I was able to take a quick shot before it moved on again.

 

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This is my only photo worth sharing from Day 1 (I'm easing you in gently!).

 

After leaving the aardwolf behind we pushed on and got to camp after dark, where we located our tents, and were served the first of many excellent meals under the dining tent. As we were finishing desert, there was a call that one of the camp staff had seen a leopard wandering through the edge of camp. With the aid of a flashlight, we were able to relocate it and watched it briefly before it was lost into the darkness.

 

With an aardwolf and a leopard seen on the first evening, it was an excellent start to the trip, and we hadn’t really started properly yet. I retired to our tent wondering what the morning would bring, but excited about spending my first night under canvas in the African bush. I was looking forward to listening out for animals during the night, but tiredness got the better of me and I was asleep inside five minutes.

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Rainbirder

Great start!!!

.....and what a great first image!

Edited by Rainbirder

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Kavey

Absolutely great first day and first image.

Also, every time I see your user name, I smile, it's GREAT! :-)

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Sangeeta

Wow! That's what I call a humdinger of a start. The aardwolf has me weeping with jealousy :)

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madaboutcheetah

Lovely start - can hardly wait to read more!

 

Sangeeta, I'm told the CKGR is fairly good for them - although, a huge hit or miss ofcourse .......... We saw 5 of them together while mobile camping in 2010. Somewhere near Letiahou i think......

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Super LEEDS

Great name, Vlad :) thanks for sharing your report.

 

Sangeeta - to rub it in further after MAC and ....... I thought I saw a striped hyaena once, but have recently been told it was an aardwolf :lol:

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twaffle

What a great first day.

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Vlad the Impala

Thanks for the replies. We were certainly under no illusion as to how fortunate we were with the Aardwolf, and indeed this was to be the stand-out sighting of the trip.

 

Anyway, on to Day 2…

 

Day 2 – Moremi

Day 2 started with a quick breakfast, over which everyone else discussed the lions, hyenas and hippos they’d heard during the night. I’d been oblivious to all of it apart from the ever present cacophony of frogs and crickets that had sent me off to sleep within seconds of hitting the pillow. I vowed to stay awake longer that night and experience more of the night-time noises Moremi had to offer.

 

Before long we were in the vehicle again and adding more mammals and birds to our growing list. Our guide, Disho, did a very good impersonation of a Pearl-spotted Owlet (amongst many others) and, having stopped next to a likely looking ‘bird bush’, managed to attract many new species, including the Owlet itself. For the next half hour eyes were everywhere trying to identify each new arrival to the bush.

 

Eventually we got a call from the other vehicle which had moved ahead, to tell us they’d found a pair of lions. We left the bird bush, and soon caught up with them – a male and a female which had broken away from the pride to spend some quality time together. We watched and followed them for a while, but they were on the move and eventually disappeared into the deeper bush. I did manage one shot of the young male which I was quite happy with.

 

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We stopped for coffee at a lagoon, where we watched Kingfishers and Egrets fishing, and spotted a rare Lesser Jacana.

 

Moving on, we came to an open area where we saw a pair of Wattled Cranes (we were to see them here regularly), and a lone male Buffalo enjoying a spa treatment in the mud. The cranes were a little distant for photos, but I took a sequence of the dagga boy who, despite his grumpy reputation, seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself.

 

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By now it was getting late, so we headed back to camp for brunch. Afterwards, most people went for a siesta, but Disho announced he was going to have a look around the area close to camp for signs of the female leopard which we’d seen the previous evening. I decided to go along with him, and his keen eye soon spotted a freshly killed impala hidden under a bush. Alarm calls from nearby told us she was on the move, and had probably moved off at our approach. We had a quick look around but couldn’t see her, and decided to leave her alone and to check the kill again later once it had got dark.

 

On the afternoon drive we went back to the open area where we’d seen the mud-bathing Buffalo, although he’d moved on. The cranes were still there, but still too far away for any pictures, although they looked spectacular in the low golden sun.

 

We stopped at a small pool where there were several waders, and I took a few pictures of them with their reflections. The first is a group of four Ruff, nicely lined up in a row.

 

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There was also a smart-looking Black-winged Stilt which, with a little patience, came fairly close to the vehicle, enabling me to get a few shots.

 

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After moving on, we only had a few more minutes of daylight left when Disho heard some squirrels making alarm calls, and spotted a leopard making its way through the bush and causing the commotion. This was another beautiful female, although not the same as the one from camp, and we were able to follow her for ten minutes or so as she began her night-time activities.

 

I consider myself to have been fairly fortunate with Leopards in the past – in my trips to South Africa I reckon I’ve had about 20 Leopard sightings, but as much as I’ve appreciated every one of them, I’ve never had a great photo opportunity. They’ve tended to be either fleeting, or partially obscured, sightings, or else they were at night. As such, this was my best Leopard sighting to date, and was in the last rays of light before the sun dipped below the horizon. However, although not bothered by our presence, she was on the move and getting a clear picture was tricky. I spent much of the time with her just watching her, but I did attempt a few photos when she paused briefly on a few occasions.

 

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I’m quite happy with the first one, although it’s a shame that she was in shade at that moment. The light on her coat was fantastic when she was in the open, but I wasn’t able to get a shot to capture it properly (which is just an excuse to go back to Africa again – one of these days I WILL get the perfect Leopard-in-perfect-light shot!).

 

We left the Leopard to it, and headed back to camp, on the way checking in on the Impala kill we’d found earlier. We rounded the bush holding our breaths, daring to hope that we might have two Leopard sightings in one evening, but alas there was no sign of her. And no sign of the Impala either! It had gone.

 

We’re not sure if the Leopard moved the carcass herself, having been spooked by our earlier approach (although we searched the surrounding area thoroughly, with no sign of it), or whether Hyenas had found it. The kill had been well hidden previously, and we’d been quite fortunate to spot it, so I think it unlikely a Hyena would have stumbled across it. I suspect she’d dragged it somewhere even better hidden than originally, well out of the way of prying Hyenas and nosy humans alike.

 

After another excellent dinner, I again returned to my tent, where the lack of an afternoon siesta saw me repeat last night’s debacle of staying awake to hear the sounds of the night. I was fast asleep again in less than a few minutes.

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Vlad the Impala

Day 3 – Moremi

During the night, I did wake up a few times and managed to hear Hippo and Hyenas, so I had at least experienced that part of safari camping I’d been so eagerly anticipating, even if it was only briefly, and from a semi-awake state.

 

Anyway – on with the photos. The morning drive today saw us fruitlessly searching the area around camp for any signs of the female Leopard, or her kill, before being called by the other vehicle which had found a big male Lion tracking a large herd of Buffalo. When we arrived, we found the Lion lying down on a small mound, half paying attention to a group of a couple of hundred Buffalo a little way off. We watched a few Buffalo get pretty close to where the Lion was, seemingly oblivious to its presence, and we anticipated some manic action at any second. However, the Lion was clearly biding his time, as he let the Buffalo pass without showing much interest, and eventually the herd moved away and into the trees.

 

After a while, the Lion yawned, got up, stretched, and started making his way through the plain to the edge of the trees into which the herd had disappeared. Disho expertly managed to predict the Lion’s path, and put us in an excellent position for photos, with the sun hitting the Lion perfectly as he made his way through the grass. This was to become a feature of Disho’s guiding – he clearly knew his stuff when it came to photography (as well as anything else we saw, or which we asked him about).

 

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After vowing to check in on the Lion again later to see if he’d gotten anywhere with the Buffalo, we headed off to another part of the reserve along a water channel to check out some of the water birds and hippos. Along the way we attempted an ambitious short-cut through a marshy area and got stuck – all part of an Okavango safari! But it wasn’t long before the other vehicle made it around and towed us out from the other side, and we were on our way again – much to the approval of the group of Hippos who’d been watching us very closely as we stood next to our stricken vehicle.

 

Upon reaching the river channel, we saw an abundance of waterbirds, as well as more Hippos and a couple of huge Crocs. I was pleased to see a Black Heron fishing with its characteristic technique of creating an umbrella of shade with its arced wings to attract fish to within easy reach. We also saw numerous Jacanas, Herons, and Egrets, as well as a pair of Pygmy Geese, and a rare Bradfield’s Hornbill.

 

I also got my first ever sightings of Red Lechwe, and took a photo of a male on the far side of the river channel as it came through the reeds to drink.

 

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We spent quite a while in this area, which was beautiful, and managed to add several more new species to the list. It was quite late when we eventually left, and the sun was high in the sky, so we began our long drive back to camp, getting back around 1pm.

 

I skipped a siesta again after lunch, and it wasn’t long before we were back in the vehicles once more ready for the afternoon drive.

 

We looked for the Buffalo herd from this morning, hoping to find the male Lion still in attendance, and headed to an open area in the direction in which they’d been heading that morning. Upon arrival, there was no sign of them, but a nice consolation was a Kori Bustard, which posed nicely for photos in the grass. Normally my shots of these huge birds are of them walking away from the camera, but this one was a little more approachable and performed well for us.

 

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We eventually picked up signs of the buffalo herd, which looked like it had split into two. We tracked one half of the herd and realised it was heading to the same open area in which we’d seen the mud-bathing male Buffalo the previous day, so we headed there to wait as the sun began to set.

 

On arrival, we could see a large flock of Cattle Egret in the air in the distance, a sure sign that the herd was nearby. As we waited we watched the pair of Wattled Cranes again, as well as a small herd of Wildebeest, and some Impala. The Impala were a fairly large group of females under the stewardship of their male, who seemed to be having all kinds of difficulty keeping the females in order. He was constantly chasing them around seemingly trying to get them into a close-knit group, but none of them appeared to do as they were being told, and there was lots of running about and pronking across the plain. At one point I managed to get a shot of one of the females in the super light as she took a pause to watch the male chasing one of the others.

 

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Eventually the Buffalo made it out onto the plain too, and we watched as, one-by-one, they made it out into the open and began to graze. All the while we were watching the surrounding bushes for signs of the male Lion, but if he was still in attendance, he remained hidden out of sight.

 

The photo below is of a few of the Buffalo under the full moon.

 

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Once the sun had set, we headed back to camp and I put my camera away in my bag. No sooner had I done so, when we spotted another Leopard – our third of the trip! This was another female, and we followed her for a while in the fading light before heading back to camp. This time I didn’t take any photos – I’d just put my camera away, and the sun had disappeared, so I knew I wouldn’t have managed a better shot than the previous day’s. Instead I just watched her as she went about her business, scent-marking and patrolling her territory. Another excellent end to the day.

 

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MisterAviator

Great trip report, and lovely photos! I hope there's more on the way.

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PT123

Vlad, you really took some great pictures, the buffalo rolling over, the young male lion, and especially the first leopard picture and the buff grazing under a full moon. Absoluetly beautiful. I've never been able to get a half decent leopard picture and like you this just gives me yet another reason to return to africa!

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Vlad the Impala

Thanks for the kind comments - much appreciated.

 

Day 4 – Moremi

By now I’d realised that the daily wake-up call was provided over an hour before the morning drive began, so I’d gotten into a routine of ignoring it for most of that hour, only emerging from my tent in time for a quick coffee before clambering aboard the vehicle ready for the off.

Today was our last full day in Moremi and it began well with good close up views of the Wattled Cranes which had kept their distance up until then.

 

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We then proceeded to the wetlands area where we’d seen the Lesser Jacana previously and managed to pick out another two on the far side of the water. While there we also picked up some Black Rhino tracks, a very rare occurrence in Moremi. We tracked it for a while, but it disappeared into the bush and we couldn’t follow. However, while checking out the Rhino tracks, Disho spotted a Lioness far in the distance and after giving up on the Rhino, we approached it for a closer look.

 

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We called it in to the other vehicle and they joined us to spend a bit of time with her. Eventually she moved off, and as we were turning around, Disho’s keen eyes spotted yet another well-hidden cat, this time a Cheetah! He/she was laying just the other side of a mound across a channel of water, so that only the head was visible. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get any closer for photos due to the water barrier, but it was a nice sighting nonetheless.

 

By now it was time for a coffee, and we stopped at a small pan of water for a break. There was a Darter in the tree opposite and a couple of small waders picking their way through the mud on the far side. They were Wood Sandpipers, and after watching them for a while, I realised one of them had a regular feeding pattern – making its way along a 20m stretch of mud, and then retracing it’s steps back, before repeating the route. While it was at the far end of its 20m ‘patch’, I quietly sat down at the near end and waited to see if it came within camera range. With a little patience, it started coming closer, and after a while eventually got close enough for some photos. I was able to lie down in the mud and take lots of photos of the bird at a nice low angle – the following picture is probably the best of the sequence.

 

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Feeling pleased with myself, coffee break was now over, so we got back on the vehicles and moved away. No sooner had we done so than a small animal shot out from near the side of the track, and off through the grass. A Side-striped Jackal! The first time I’d ever seen one in daylight, but unfortunately no chance of a photo.

We continued and made our way to an open area of grassland frequently used by a male Cheetah coalition to hunt, but alas there was no sign of them on this occasion. While there though, we stopped to swap news with another vehicle who told us about a pair of mating Lions nearby.

 

We went and found them, and they were resting under a bush as it was now heating up considerably. The male appeared to be exhausted, although he managed to rouse himself for some action a couple of times. Although we were very close to the Lions, the photo opportunities were limited due to the light, so I instead turned my camera on a nearby Golden Orb Web spider, whose web looked particularly impressive – it’s thick, golden strands reflecting the sun nicely and illustrating where the spider gets its name.

 

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As it was now approaching lunchtime, we headed back to camp once more, where we had a bit of siesta time after lunch before the afternoon drive. Once again though, I preferred to stay awake and did a spot of bird-watching and photography around the camp. I identified the Woodpecker incessantly drumming above the tents as a male Bearded Woodpecker, and was pleased to see the Greater Honeyguide I’d been hearing calling around camp for several days, but had not seen until now.

 

We went and visited the camp staff in the kitchen area where they showed us the ‘oven’ – a metal box they buried in hot ash from the fire, as well as the stove and preparation area. The set-up was quiet incredible, and I was even more impressed at the quality of the meals we’d been cooked.

 

I took a few photos around camp: the first is (I think) an African Monarch Butterfly, and the second is a snapshot of our very luxurious tent.

 

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On the afternoon drive, we started with brief views of an African Wildcat and a pair of Secretary Birds. No photos of either, since the former bolted off into the undergrowth, and the latter were quite a way off for any decent shots. They were good sightings though, and the Wildcat was, like the Jackal earlier, the first time I’d seen one during daylight.

 

We also saw a small group of Tsessebe which we watched for a while, before moving on and ending up at a very picturesque pool under the shade of some large trees. I’m sometimes guilty of not taking enough landscape photos on my travels, but on this occasion we stopped long enough for me to switch lenses to the wide angle, and captured a few shots.

 

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As the sun started to dip, we made our way back to the mating Lions and found they’d moved one bush to the left of where we’d left them. They were still doing their thing, and we stayed with them for a while, experiencing a mighty roar from the male at one point. From a range of just a few metres, it left quite an impression on the eardrums. The sun was now setting, and I took a final silhouette shot of a couple of Lala Palms, before we headed back for our last night at the Xakanaxa camp in Moremi.

 

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Atravelynn

I want to crawl right into that tent for a week's safari. Did you mention the month of the year you went? That's great you could go with your dad. Does he often accompany you on your safaris?

 

BLACK rhino tracks in Moremi? What was the theory on that?

 

 

Loved the rolling buffalo and the spider. Great sky/moon pics.

 

What were the interesting crossings?

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Vlad the Impala

I want to crawl right into that tent for a week's safari. Did you mention the month of the year you went? That's great you could go with your dad. Does he often accompany you on your safaris?

 

BLACK rhino tracks in Moremi? What was the theory on that?

 

 

Loved the rolling buffalo and the spider. Great sky/moon pics.

 

What were the interesting crossings?

 

This report is from April, and is the second trip I've done with my Dad. He got me interested in wildlife when I was a kid, but had never done a safari, so when he retired a few years back I took him to the Kruger Park and he seems to be hooked! :)

 

The rhino tracks were certainly interesting, and caused considerable excitement amongst our guides. As I understand it a small number have been relocated to the wider area, but not much has been made of it, for obvious reasons. Sightings are very rare, and we spent some time tracking this individual, before the tracks left the road and disappeared into the thicker bush.

 

I've been a bit slow in updating this trip report, and am about to go away for 10 days (alas, not Africa this time), but will continue when I return - the water crossings are up next!

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madaboutcheetah

Enjoying your report very much - I think your guide Disho may have been based at Kwando Lagoon a few years ago. Not sure if it's the same guy...

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Atravelynn

Thanks for all the answers Vlad. I understand about gaps in finishing a report. I'm in the same boat. Hope you have more nice trips with your father.

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Botswana Footprints

What great sightings! well done! thanks for sharing your trip review! (",)

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pault

Sounds great and your pictures bring back happy memories. The upside down buffalo is priceless. :)

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Uh_oh busted

Wonderful report and photos.

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Vlad the Impala

Ok, I'm determined to finish this!

 

Following a few months out of action with a broken computer monitor, I'm going to finish off the last few days of this trip report, if only for a sense of self accomplishment.

 

Day 5 – Moremi to Khwai

When I emerged from my tent this morning, the camp staff had already disassembled most of the camp, in preparation of packing it up and moving it 60km or so away to our next campsite at Khwai. I just about had time for the usual coffee, and made it onto the vehicle just as our own tent was being rolled up tightly into a large canvas bag, with all the efficiency of a military operation.

 

The morning drive came to a stop just a few minutes after it began as we met the large herd of Buffalo just outside the camp. The herd had come back together again and seemed to cover the entire area. We sat with them for a long time as the sun came up, watching the different behaviours amongst them and picking out the attending Yellow-billed Oxpeckers amongst the more common Red-billed species. There were many very young calves in the herd, and we spotted one in particular lying down in the grass near the track. It looked like it had only been born very recently, maybe even overnight, and we quickly realised all was not well. Either it was injured or exhausted, but as the herd slowly made its way through the clearing, the calf remained on the floor despite the attempts of its mother to hurry it along.

 

Soon they were last two of the herd not to have moved along, and the mother seemed torn between staying with her calf and rejoining the rest of the herd. Then we saw why. A male lion in the bushes from where the herd had come – this was the same male we’d seen a few days before, and he’d probably been following the herd the whole time waiting for his chance. And here it was. The mother Buffalo realised the game was up, and left her calf to its fate. And a few minutes later the Lion had made what was probably one of the easier kills it had ever made.

 

 

 

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The Lion soon carried the young calf into some thick bush out of the way of scavengers, and we moved along too. With a long day of driving ahead of us, we had lots of ground to cover.

 

We stopped along the way for some more unusual sightings – including a Honey Badger and some more birds. I took a few pictures of a young Bateleur in flight, and then a distant shot of a striking Dickinson’s Kestrel which had made a small kill of its own.

 

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We made to the Khwai gate by early afternoon and began our drive to our new camp. On route there were three water crossings we had to negotiate, each one seemingly trickier than the last.

 

The first was straightforward enough, if a little deep. It was a case of lifting all bags etc off the vehicle floor to stop them getting a soaking, but we got through to the other side without too much difficulty. The second crossing was more of an obstacle, or, to be precise, it contained an obstacle. A large male Hippo had taken up residence just where we needed to cross.

 

Of the two vehicles in our convoy, ours included a trailer containing everyone’s luggage and the rest of the camp equipment that hadn’t gone ahead with the camp staff. As such, the other vehicle was more manoeuvrable and this was the one that attempted the crossing past the Hippo first. Despite much snorting from the Hippo, and a mock-charge, mouth agape – the vehicle got through to the other side undamaged, although the looks on a few of the occupants’ faces told their own story.

 

So now it was our turn. Only now the Hippo was pretty angry, and was showing more signs of aggression than before. We approached the water, and he mock charged again, causing us to reconsider. If he attacked the unprotected sides of the vehicle, he could do some serious damage, so we had a rethink and looked for another place to cross.

Unfortunately, there was none, and there was no other route to take to camp, so we returned to the crossing point once more with the Hippo still guarding it fiercely. We decided to try and ‘out-bluff’ him, and revved the engine several times, inching forward as we did so. We then made a few mock charges of our own – head-on to the Hippo (so the vehicle would be protected by the bull bars at the front, should the Hippo charge for real). Fortunately this seemed to do the trick, and having persuaded him to take up a spot a few yards further downstream, we hastily made our way through the crossing to the other side, with the disgruntled hippo glaring at us, eventually deciding against a final charge.

 

During this encounter, I was disappointed not to have taken some better shots of the Hippo. He was quite a character, and the following photo, my best, doesn’t do any justice to him at all. Unfortunately during the times he mock-charged with maximum aggression, there was a lot of movement in the vehicle(!), with everyone else all trying to get the killer shot, and I was obstructed each time. One of the drawbacks of having lots of people in the same vehicle I suppose.

 

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The third crossing came soon afterwards and was probably the most dangerous of the lot. It was fairly deep, but included a steep drop-off to one side, which we found mid way across. The vehicle lurched sharply to the right and, with the trailer acting as a further weight dragging us down, we began to fall away into the deeper water, the front left wheel coming a good foot or so out of the water.

 

I still don’t know how he did it, but Disho somehow pulled some nifty manoeuvre and amongst much revving and wheel-spinning, and plenty of lock, we righted ourselves again and emerged from the water, still dragging the trailer behind us.

 

The people on the other vehicle had had some interesting expressions on their faces during the Hippo crossing, but now it was their turn to laugh as, having made the crossing first and unscathed, they’d had front row sheets of our own watery predicament. The following photo was taken by an occupant of the other vehicle - I hope she doesn't mind my posting it here. My Dad and I were sat in the back left seats of the vehicle, as you see it in the picture, and are getting a little soggy at this point.

 

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After the excitement of the crossings, the rest of the drive to camp was conducted in rather jovial spirits, but we did stop on route to take a few shots of an obliging Tawny Eagle which stayed perched in nice light against dark skies, allowing us to approach quite close.

 

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The new camp area was in an even more picturesque location than in Moremi, in a glade of trees a short way from the river.

 

After dinner, and once we’d retired to bed, we were treated to the usual cacophony of frogs and insects, and this time, being so close to the water, it included the distinctive ‘pinging’ call of the Angolan Reed Frog, as well as the occasional Hippo.

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Vlad the Impala

Day 6 – Khwai

During the night I was woken up on a few occasions by the sound of Hyenas near the camp, and at one point there was one just outside the tent – in fact it was just a few feet away as my Dad clearly saw it looking in at him through the mosquito netting. Unfortunately it didn’t make it around to my side of the tent, so I missed seeing it, although in the morning, we discovered that several people had seen it, or another, before going to bed, and in fact we’d lost the use of some kitchen equipment overnight due to irreparable Hyena-damage!

 

The morning drive began with news that a lion pride had been sighted nearby, deep within a stand of young mopane trees. We eventually found them – a group of two adult females and five cubs. The vegetation was very thick and getting a decent photo wasn’t easy – this was the best I could manage of one of the cubs.

 

 

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We left them to it and continued our drive, but found game harder to come by than we’d become accustomed to in Moremi. When we stopped for coffee there were a few raptors circling overhead, and I got a picture of a female Bateleur.

 

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The rest of the drive was fairly uneventful, and we returned to camp for lunch and rest before heading again.

 

This afternoon though, was a change of pace from the usual game drives. Today we were scheduled for a mokoro trip along the river. On the way to the mokoro launch site though, we came across a pair of male Lions doing what Lions do best under a roadside bush.

 

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Once in the mokoros, we spent several hours lazily making our way down the river, encountering a drinking herd of Elephant along the way. It was an incredibly peaceful experience, and we were able to spend time appreciating some of the smaller inhabitants of the delta, including various types of Reed Frog, and a large flock of Red-billed Quelea which were stripping bare some of the riverside bushes. The river was full of water lilies and, having seen baboons eating the roots of these plants (and being told it was safe to do so), I pulled one of them up and tried it for myself. Not bad, but I decided to stick with the camp food. I took a number of more scenic pictures from the mokoro, the following of which were my favourites.

 

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Once disembarked from the mokoros, the drive back to camp turned into an extended game drive. Again, we found Khwai to be pretty quiet compared to Moremi where we’d undoubtedly been spoiled. However, as it was starting to get dark we heard the deep booming call of a Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, and managed to locate a pair of them in a riverside tree.

 

It was then time to head back to camp once more for another fantastic meal and another early night. Disappointingly, there were no more Hyenas tonight – in fact the only Hyena I was to see on the trip was the Aardwolf on Day 1. A shame, as Spotted Hyenas are one of my favourites, but I’ve had fantastic sightings of them in the past, and the Aardwolf more than made up for it.

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Game Warden

Good show Vlad!

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Vlad the Impala

Thanks former member and GW. I'm on a roll!

 

Here's the final installment...

 

Day 7 – Khwai

Today we had a target of finding some Wild Dogs. We were in an area which was reasonably good for them, and a pack had been sighted the day before we’d arrived in Khwai.

 

Shortly after leaving camp we came across a small bachelor group of Elephants feeding on Camel-Thorn Acacia. An Elephant would lean against the trunk with his foreheads and push, shaking the tree violently and causing hundreds of seed-pods to drop to the ground. This was quite a feat to watch, since the trees were pretty big and had thick, sturdy-looking trunks. The Elephant would then spend the next ten minutes circling the tree, hoovering up the fallen pods with his trunk, before shaking the tree again, or moving on to another tree. We watched this for sometime, and it was very interesting behaviour to watch. Some of the smaller, younger males weren’t as strong and they waited for others to shake the trees and then tried to muscle in on the fallen bounty – with varying degrees of success depending on the mood of the tree’s shaker. Others would reach up with their trunks and take individual pods from the branches, but this must surely have expended more energy.

 

Once the Elephants had moved on, we retrieved a few of the seed-pods to take a closer look and, having again checked it was safe to do so, I tried one of these too. The taste was incredibly bitter – not at all like the sweet water lilies from the previous day. It also left my mouth feeling very dry. I couldn’t quite see what the Elephants saw in these pods, but that’s true of a lot of what an Elephant eats, and I suspect they’d probably feel the same about some of my diet too.

 

We continued our search for Wild Dogs, but although we picked up some old tracks at one point, there was no sign of the animals themselves. We stopped for coffee at the same place as yesterday, and there were again several raptors in the sky above us. At one point a Bateleur began mobbing a White-backed Vulture, and I got a photo of the encounter. I was really struck by how much larger the vulture was than the Bateleur.

 

 

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With no more signs of the Wild Dogs, we returned to base and, since it was our last day, I used the time to get some photos around camp. The first is a shot taken from my bed through the tent’s netting. I took this to try to give people back home an idea of the wilderness we were sleeping in. I also spent some time watching the wildlife around camp including some Glossy Starlings and a family of Tree Squirrels, one of which I took a photo of as it descended from its tree.

 

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We spent the afternoon drive again searching for the Wild Dogs and stopped for little else, such was our determination to find them. Alas, as the sun started to drop we at last had to admit defeat, but we stayed out after dark for a night drive, during which we saw another Wildcat, and several Nightjars. At one point we stopped for an hour or so for a few beers from the coolbox, while Disho pointed out various stars and constellations in the clear night sky. This turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip for me, and I’ve got more into astronomy since returning home as a result. He showed us various stars in the constellation Orion, pointed out Sirius and Aldebaran, and some of the Southern Constellations I wasn’t at all familiar with including the bright stars of Centaurus and the Southern Cross. He also explained how to find due South using the stars as a compass (a little more complicated than finding due North in the Northern Hemisphere). Being so far from any light pollution, the sky was incredibly clear and the Milky Way showed up brightly across the sky. I vowed to try and take a picture of it once back at camp where I could set my camera up for a long exposure. I did however get the following shot of Venus a little earlier in the evening when there was still some light in the sky.

 

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On the way back to camp, we stopped for another Nightjar in the road, and I took a picture of it. After a fair amount of debate, I think we eventually decided it was a Mozambique Nightjar.

 

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Once back at camp, I spent a while playing around with my camera, trying to set it up to take a long exposure shot of the night sky. As I didn’t have a tripod with me, or a cable release, this involved propping it up on a table and forcing the shutter open with a wedged stick! I was quite pleased with the result though, and it’s something I’ll try to do properly some time.

 

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We spent our final night in Botswana, and made our way back to Maun the next morning, with little to report in terms of game, although we added a few final bird species to the list. All too soon, we were in the air heading back to the UK, via Johannesburg, after a fantastic first experience of Botswana.

 

The sighting highlights of the trip for me were the Aardwolf on Day 1, the daylight Leopards, and the Lion kill. From a photographic point of view, I was happy with many of the shots I got – my best (so far) picture of a Leopard, and some reasonable efforts with the Wood Sandpiper and Tawny Eagle. Some of the photos of general game, such as the bud-bathing Buffalo, and the Buffalo herd under the moon, were a little different from what I’ve managed in the past, and I was pleased with these too.

 

The most memorable moments were probably experiences rather than sightings. The astronomy lesson from Disho, the mokoro boat trip, and the unforgettable river crossings will stay with me for a long time, but probably the stand-out memory of the whole trip was simply sleeping out in a bush-camp in the middle of nowhere. Laying in bed, surrounded by all the night-time sounds of the bush, with just a thin layer of canvas and netting to separate it from us was a fantastic feeling, and an experience I am keen to have again in the future.

Edited by Tdgraves
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Sangeeta
Laying in bed, surrounded by all the night-time sounds of the bush, with just a thin layer of canvas and netting to separate it from us was a fantastic feeling, and an experience I am keen to have again in the future.

 

Nothing quite like it.

 

Lovely report - it started with that wonderful aardwolf sighting and ended under the stars - can it get any better? The photos are simply beautiful and very atmospheric.

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Kavey

Aah lovely. A joy to read.

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