Southern Africa Bush Tails

Kalahari Plains Camp news

Nxai Pan

Rather shy, but always a delight to watch, sightings were reported of two bat eared fox parents ‘herding’ their five young at the old water-hole. The two male lions – part of the resident pride – were seen often near the main waterhole. The rest of the pride appeared to have moved off further away from the main game drive areas of the park – perhaps heading back down to Phuduhudu for another cow or two.. The males seem to be doing well for themselves, having been seen feeding on springbok close to the pan.

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If the pride went in search of cows, they didn’t time it quite so well – in the middle of the month, eight buffalos (seven females and one male) arrived into the area. They spent a couple of days around one of the camping sites – enjoying the little grass that is there. This is the largest number of buffalos we have seen together in Nxai Pan in recent years as it is not an area that is suited to their feeding habits.

A week later, the pride with 9 sub-adult cubs had returned, and were seen in the company of the males again, feeding on a zebra by Baobab loop.

The sub-adult cheetahs appear to have finally left their mother – they were seen several times on their own, and attempted to hunt. They weren’t successful at the time, but it will take a lot of practice and failed attempts before they become as adept as their mother!

Tau Pan

A walk is always a nice gentle way to start a morning, and so began the day’s planned activity at Tau Pan. The tracker and guide began leading the guests down from the main deck and off on their stroll, when a large male lion suddenly appeared at the waterhole a few hundred metres below them. Whilst the guests were watching with binoculars, and the camp’s telescope, the car was quickly brought around for a change of activity, and the guests set off on the drive to see the lion.

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Obviously hearing what was up, and feeling a little camera shy, the lion then decided to leave the waterhole and head through the edge of the camp, leading the guide on a bit of a wild goose chase as the lion cut through the bush. After some tracking, and a brief sighting of him heading off through the landscape, the guests returned to the original plan of a walk and set off again – a little later than the norm!

A trip to the Piper Pan provided two excellent sightings – 9 lions including six youngsters were resting in the shade of a tree. Not too far away from them, seven wild dogs were seen moving off into the distance. A day or so later, and the dogs paid a visit to Tau Pan, also where three lions were seen (one male mating with one of the two lionesses).

Things must be getting unseasonably dry, as one morning, down at the Tau Pan waterhole, a brown hyena was seen drinking. Normally, these super shy and elusive predators are rarely seen in the summer months, but thirst must have forced a change of habit. A few days later, we were lucky enough to see another brown hyena – this time hunting – a highly unusual sighting.

When Lions Roar and Bushmen Walk 

I awake to a noisy dawn as a pride of lion, including five cubs, made our Kalahari Plains Camp tent the centre of their universe for the night with repetitive melodies of adjoining roars, echoed only by the response of distant lions. As I lie warm in my comfortable bed I wonder what must be rushing through the minds of the Bushman family who were undoubtedly starting to prepare for their morning activity: a bush walk to share and educate others on their ancient ‘hunter-gatherer’ lifestyle.

Over my much-needed morning coffee I can hear the family chattering away, and the unmistakable clicking and animation of their morning tales. A sudden commotion and I knew they had spotted the lions who were now on the move and had already made their way to the opposite end of the pan.

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I head out and introduce myself and they greet me as per ancient tradition, with a hand on the shoulder and their head bowed in respect. Their movements are slow and controlled, and I automatically adjust my ever-rushing mind into a pace commonly known as “African Time”.

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We set off on our walk and only metres from the camp the family is already chattering excitedly about every plant and shrub they see, and I quickly realise that this pristine area must be like a fully-stocked greengrocer for our family who are accustomed to living in more utilised areas, shared by cattle and other clans.

They are quick to identify species used not only for eating, but also for spices, “especially for cooking predatory animals such as small African wild cats and jackal”, they explain. Other plant species were demonstrated for their use in hunting; to create poisonous arrow tips and for medicinal purposes; placed into body incisions either as preventatives or cures.

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The family proceeded to educate and humour us as they continued with their familial antics in this hostile and unforgiving world. After carefully collecting grass species along the way, Xayaha (1st son) demonstrated his hard-learned fire-making skills. Suddenly a brief loss of concentration saw his tiny little flame jump into the air and disappear in a pop. His actions and seemingly animated disappointment was met by a barrage of fast-paced comments from his family members, especially the ladies who could only have been cussing his failure, as they had probably taught him this vital life skill at a very young age.

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Walking back towards camp we came across a beautiful oryx (gemsbok) antelope who had been successful in dodging the lions all night, but was now startled at our strange forms coming through the grass. It was then that the ladies instinctively disappeared to the ground and the men engaged in a tactical hunt formation. They crept to within metres of the antelope as it advanced on them to try and identify the threat the Bushmen posed. The men demonstrated their strategic hunting techniques on the obliging antelope before we set off once again to our camp where a delicious brunch was awaiting us.

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This once-in-a-lifetime experience was deeply moving and brought me closer to a Bushman family whose roots lay deep in the sands of the Kalahari.

 Written and Photographed by Deon De Villiers – Wilderness Safaris

Kalahari Plains Camp news

The desert sands of the Kalahari provide a good picture of the seasonal situation, whether we are in the wet or the dry season. The unpredictable rainfall this summer seems to have kick-started a diverse growth of palatable vegetation, creating huge concentrations of game within Big Pan and its surroundings. Our area’s landscapes take our guests’ breath away, as we traverse it from end to end.

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Climate and Landscape

The desert sands of the Kalahari provide a good picture of the seasonal situation, whether we are in the wet or the dry season. The unpredictable rainfall this summer seems to have kick-started a diverse growth of palatable vegetation, creating huge concentrations of game within Big Pan and its surroundings. Our area’s landscapes take our guests’ breath away, as we traverse it from end to end.

Wildlife

The Owens Boys were seen moving back and forth, all the way from Deception Valley and in to Mr Lekhubu’s territory, which covers Big Pan and stretches all the way to Kalahari Plains’ East Lebala Pans. The two male lions had a number of interactions with their now-regular female and her daughter, mating towards end of last year. The lioness, who we have named Bushman House Female, dropped three cubs towards beginning of last month. Her name came after we spotted her with her young cubs close to the Bushman hut under a purple-pod terminalia tree, giving every indication that the cubs were born there.

The Plains Pride, which consists of two experienced adult sisters, two sub-adult sisters and five sub-adult brothers were seen coming in and out of camp, especially to drink from the camp waterhole. They appear to have survived the drama of a number of successful and well-planned hunts and appear in good shape, even in the absence of Mr Lekhubu’s presence.

The Deception Valley area, as well as Letiahau and Sunday Pans, delivered beyond our expectations on a number of occasions. Two male lions, known as the Lekhubu Boys, and three others known as the Letiahau Boys were sighted feeding on various kills of oryx and blue wildebeest within each other’s territory.

Multiple cheetah sightings provided great viewings of the Letiahau Brothers, the Plains Male as well as the Half Left Ear Female and two surviving cubs (from her original three).

Highly rated sightings of brown hyaena were also on the list of great viewings while leopard tortoise numbers added great value to sightings across our area – quite unexpectedly often just after soft rains.

Madala, our well known resident camp male leopard now in his prime, was spotted on a few occasions displaying typical leopard behaviour and catching our guests’ attention out on safari. Another previously unseen sub-adult male leopard named Shy Boy was sighted along Khudu Pan South feeding on his fresh springbok kill, making a huge contribution to our highlights list.

Other interesting sightings encountered within a short period of time included a very relaxed and rare caracal walking across New Track Road close to camp, two African wildcats on a hunt along Khudu Pan South, honey badgers foraging along Matlotse Pan while black-backed jackals and pale-chanting goshawks opportunistically waited for scraps.

But surely the highlight of the month was seeing two aardwolf running up and down along Korhaan Road after we had a few drops of rain one afternoon.

Our camp waterhole always delivers a massive contribution for us as guides as it attracts a lot of animals to come to drink during the course of a day. Elephant, particularly, provide great and memorable experiences for our guests’ safaris at Kalahari Plains.

This is the time of year when predators follow the game that is dropping its young. However, we have no solid answer to the question of when it will end. This annual animal interaction is part of a fully functioning ecosystem.

Birds and Birding

Birdlife is quite stunning in the Kalahari at this time of the year with seemingly endless numbers of summer migrants arriving while a lot of the birds are in their most beautiful plumage, as this is the breeding season for about 75 per cent of birds.

Male birds have a challenging lifestyle when it comes to mating, which calls for proper logistics and protocols to be implemented to impress the females and win the race to be a potential breeding partner. Thereafter the seasonal changes get them on the move, ready to start journeys of thousands and thousands of miles.

Newsletter and photos: Mwamo Poneso Mwamo

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