For our first full day at Sango Safari Camp in Khwai, we watched the sunrise as we huddled around the fire eating our continental breakfast. The six of us piled into the safari vehicle, again equipped with wonderful, fleece lined ponchos.
July took us through the burn area with a reedbuck to the Khwai Concession for the morning. Since Dom and Gary didn’t join us on the yesterday’s afternoon safari, we wanted to give them a chance to see the leopard with the kill if it was still there.
Honey Badger and Kudus
On the way to the leopard, we spotted some kudus and a honey badger! The early morning light accentuated theses magnificent antelopes’ beauty. Each curve in the kudus’ horns represents a year, so these guys were five to six years old.
The honey badger was a pleasant surprise, and the first time I had ever seen one. Unfortunately, I had dropped my camera the previous day, so focusing my camera became an issue. The little guy as it darted across the road eluding me, so I only have Dom’s video to share.
As we couldn’t hear July very well over the diesel engine as he softly spoke toward the ground, we decided amongst ourselves and the picture book that it was a polcat.
Later when we were talking about it, July asked, “Where did you see that?”
Upon our answer, he corrected us. We had so many laughs with our game of telephone that we played from the first row to the back.
Had we just waited for him to turn off the engine and turn to talk to us, we likely would have heard him fine. We, however, were a very eager group of pupils!
Are heads were on a swivel though, as soon after spotting the honey badger that zipped across the road and into the tall grass, we saw the gorgeous male leopard.
He had covered his kill with leaves, so it stayed protected from the hyenas for one more day. As a result he was chomping on a small bone when we approached. With a big, round belly, he started digging up more of the red lechwe carcass. He has definitely been enjoying a feast the last three days!
As usual, I could have sat there all day and watched him, but we had some lion cubs to find. They are easier to track in the morning when the paw prints are not covered in tire tracks.
We tracked the lions for about 45 minutes while snapping a photo here or there before we finally found the lioness and three cubs resting by the bush. The tracking was fun, and they were so exciting to find!
Being the first at the scene, we enjoyed them all to ourselves for the first ten minutes or so. For the first thirty minutes, the cubs snuggled by their mom, perked up anytime they heard another vehicle, and nursed a little. One of them must have latched on a bit too hard as mama lifted up and scolded it!
Many vehicles came and went while we stayed. Our patience was rewarded, as the cubs started playing when the sun warmed up their shady patch. They wrestled, frolicked in the high grasses, and climbed a low lying tree branch. You know it is a nice sighting when the guide snaps a photo of a cub stretching and sharping its claws on the branch!
Birds and More
Approximately one hour and 341 pictures later (just my pics), we finally bid farewell to the cats. After all, there is lots of other wildlife to see. Warthogs, Red Lechwe, and the Pels Fishing Owl were a few things we spotted.
According to July, the Pels Fishing Owl is a rare find and birders come to Africa just to see it. It is normally found in the Okavango Delta, so we were extra lucky to see it. We also enjoyed seeing some starlings and a lilac chested roller before we breaked for coffee near a marshy area.
After coffee, we slowly motored back past the bush airport and toward our lodge. It is remarkable how much we accomplished before 11am!
From 11 am to 3:30 pm, we enjoyed our lunch and just rested at our tents as animals approached the water hole. This was actually the first afternoon of down time we had since we arrived in Africa 6 days ago. We participated in several activities in Victoria Falls as we adjusted for jetlag and during our safari in Chobe, we spent the afternoons exploring town and taking a boat ride.
Moremi Game Reserve
For the afternoon, July steered our safari jeep across the wooden bridge, called the Bridge Over River Khwai, into Moremi Game Reserve. No, the bridge is not in the Bridge Over River Kwae movie which is about Thailand. But I did go to the bridge over River Kwae in Thailand some time ago.
As with our safari in Chobe National Park, safari vehicles must exit by dark, so we had about three hours to cruise around. The rangers heard from campers that the wild dogs were back after a two week hiatus. Also, we heard a guide spotted a cheetah track in the area, but there were no confirmed sightings of the cheetah.
Cheetahs typically only pass through Khwai occasionally, as the treed area is not their natural habitat. They need more wide-open spaces to utilize their speed while catching their prey.
With the cheetah track on one side of the park and the wild dog sighting on the other side of the park, we had to pick which way we wanted to go. With the 50/50 split, we let July decide. Our hunt for the wild dogs was on.
Hyena and More
As we drove around, we stopped for the vervet monkeys and warthog before we caught a glimpse of a leopard trotting from the water into the bushes. Frankolin birds were calling out, notifying animals of danger as three or four safari vehicles circled the scrub.
We never could find the elusive animal and decided it had a kill hidden in the bushes as a hyena appeared, likely attracted to the pungent odor of decay. We hadn’t spotted a hyena yet, so we followed it briefly, but he was not cooperating with the “off-road restrictions” of Moremi Game Reserve. As a result, I only have a “security shot” to show.
That’s ok because we also got a moment to snap a photo of one of several termite mounds and to see dwarf mongoose, which I had only seen on my first safari in Tanzania 12 years ago. They were much smaller than the banded mongoose!
Skunked by the wild dogs and leopard, we did a quick drive by on the other side of Moremi National Park. Boy was it beautiful! The open grassland reminded me more of the Mara and the Serenghetti. We saw zebra, wildebeest, impala, and red lechwe all grazing together in the high grasses.
We skipped our sundowner, a stop for a cocktail as the sunsets, in favor of looking for the cheetah. In the end, we along with everyone else, were skunked by the wild dogs and the cheetah, but that didn’t stop us from having another amazing day on safari in Botswana! The sunrise, the lion cubs, the leopard, the sunset and all the other animals were pretty spectacular. ETB
One thought on “Day 4 – Botswana Safari in Khwai”
I love looking at all the pics! The kudo and birds were beautiful! The bridge was very “interesting”, ha.