My guests on this trip were old friends, whom I have guided on three previous occasions. Botswana is a year-round wildlife destination, but it is still important to pick camps for seasons, and this is what they had done. Some camps are better in certain seasons, and it pays to take that into consideration when planning. We flew off from Maun to our first camp which was Little Vumbura where we stayed for the next four nights. We enjoyed excellent sightings of lions with cubs, a coalition of 3 males, sable antelope, giraffe, wildebeest, elephant and other general game. Birding was strong too, and we did several boat outings. Being out on the water makes a great change from all the game drives, and this time of year the summer skies add clouds and colour to the scene. Most unusual was the sighting of a many-spined climbing perch, a fish that moves about on dry land during rainy days.
We flew next to Savuti Camp in the north of the country, and upon arrival, were told that the resident male leopard had an impala kill stored in a tree. Later that afternoon we visited the area, and enjoyed watching the leopard at rest in the branches, whilst beneath him 5 spotted hyaena waited expectantly for the carcass of the antelope to fall from the tree. Unfortunately for them, it never happened. The next morning, which was overcast and cool, we came across a female leopard on the move. She was very stealthily carrying a tiny cub, still with closed eyes, to some new hiding place. As the leopard was obviously trying not to be noticed, we made no effort to follow her with her precious cargo. Later I managed to identify the mother leopard from images that I had taken of her mating with the resident male leopard just over three months earlier. We were able to calculate the birth date of the cub to within a few days. There was something very intimate about the sighting, of witnessing that incredible bond that exists between mothers and newborn young. Within half an hour of that sighting we joined two other vehicles at a wild dog sighting. To get there we had to drive through the rising waters of the Savuti channel, which was exciting in itself. The dogs were in good condition and resting near some shady trees. We spent the afternoon in camp as it rained heavily, but next morning we saw a female leopard stalking kudu, and then two male cheetah on the airfield in the afternoon. They walked around and scent marked the place just before sunset.
Kalahari Plains was where we flew to the following day. Good rains had fallen in the vicinity of camp since my February visit, and the resultant flush of bright green grass had attracted numbers of springbok, oryx and red hartebeest. We were most fortunate on our game drives and saw 3 male cheetah, not far from camp. We also saw honey-badgers, bat-eared fox and a leopard. On a day trip to Deception Valley we added a single herd of 40 giraffe, as well as a small group of meerkats to our list of sightings. Ostrich and kori bustards were common. The temperatures were much cooler during our visit than on my February trip, and the evenings were especially wonderful in the Kalahari. The rooms have a sleeping area on the roof, and several members of my group took this option, enjoying the full moon and the cool desert air.
It was back on the Cessna again after three nights and on to our last stop, Duba Plains camp, in the northern part of the Okavango. The annual floodwaters were arriving at Duba at the same time as we were, and this made for some challenging driving conditions, with the deepest water crossing coming as high as the drivers’ door handle. We used two vehicles and split the group, which was just as well, as I managed to get stuck in a mudhole coming back one night. However, we were able to extricate the vehicle from the mud in just a few minutes. We also had daily rainstorms during our stay but worked hard at going out whenever it would stop raining. The open plains at Duba teem with waterbirds, and red lechwe, tsessebe, reedbuck and buffalo are common. The resident lion pride in the area, once 14 strong, is now divided into two smaller sub-prides, made up of 3 and 6 females. We got very lucky whilst following the smaller pride. They managed to successfully catch a young female buffalo that was lagging behind the rest of the herd, and we were able to watch taking place. After making the kill, the most active female of the group then went and collected her four month old cubs to come and take part in the feast. We also spent time with the other group of lions, and they were on the move across the plains, accompanied by their very impressive pride male, known as the Skimmer male. Other notable sightings at Duba were elephants, side-striped jackals, bat-eared foxes and a pair of male reedbucks engaged in a serious territorial fight.
This rounded off a very good safari, with strong sightings taking place at all of the camps we visited. Although we did have a few game drives disrupted by rain, the benefits of doing a safari in Botswana’s summer more than made up for this. Wonderful vistas of lush, green grasses, brilliantly coloured migrant birds, and the dramatic storm skies of summer all combined to create a very memorable trip.