The guests on this safari had all visited Botswana before for wildlife viewing. None of them had been at this time of year though, and we had an interesting and varied itinerary. We made use of two vehicles at each stop. Some members of the group were very interested in photography.
Our first stop after a 45 minute flight from Maun was at the new Kalahari Plains camp, where we spent two nights. Accommodation was comfortable, and the roads were smooth. The weather was extremely hot. We were lucky enough to have a lion pride that frequents the area turn up very close to camp on our first morning. We returned to the lions in the late afternoon and enjoyed a spectacular sighting as they woke up, came together and bonded. The highlight was having all 8 lions roaring at once. Later that night they walked by very close to camp. We enjoyed an outdoor meal, and sleeping on the specially made decks on the roof of each room, enjoying the desert skies in the dark.
We left Kalahari Plains in our two expedition vehicles, and made our way deeper still into the Central Kalahari Reserve, and met up with our camping crew where they had erected our camp at a place called Letiahau. This was home for the next three nights. Game viewing highlights were herds of oryx and springbok, and a late afternoon lion walking by. A giraffe at sunrise kept the photographers in the group happy. During the warm middays, we visited the artificially pumped waterhole which was just a few km from our camp to watch the small birds flocking and drinking. Harriers, goshawks, ostrich and secretary birds were seen each day.
On our fourth and fifth nights we changed venues and relocated our camp close to Deception Valley itself. Following very localized rain showers, the herds of general game were more abundant here and each afternoon several hundred springbok, oryx and wildebeest would flood out of the sheltering woodland and graze in the open grassland of the valley floor. This made for spectacular viewing. We also had a great sighting of a pair of male lions roaring and marking as the sun rose. There is a no-offroad driving policy in the reserve but we were fortunate that most of the wildlife showed up close to the roads, at one time or another. Jackals and bat-eared foxes were abundant. The heat in the middle part of the day was so great that very few mammals remained active during this time, but some pools of water attracted a good number of vultures, eagles, kites and falcons. We sat out to watch and photograph some of these impressive birds during the middle parts of the day.
Next stop was reached by means of a ninety minute flight that took us to Dumatau camp in the north. Here we spent three nights. The hot weather broke, and we experienced several thundershowers, but to accommodate this we just changed the timing of our game drives and went out after the rain. We had many excellent sightings of elephant, giraffe, kudu, impala and hippo almost every drive here. We also witnessed a short-lived but savage fight between three male baboons along the Savuti channel. With water levels on the rise in the Linyanti River, the numbers of red lechwe antelope were also increasing, and we saw herds of them crashing through the water. This time of year also brings with it a whole variety of migratory birds, and these include some of the most colourful birds to be seen anywhere. Carmine bee-eaters, woodland kingfishers and broad-billed rollers are some of these species. There are also raptors moving through the region, and Amur falcons, steppe buzzards and Montagu’s harriers were some of these.
We flew south to the Okavango Delta and spent our last three nights at Duba Plains camp. The roads at Duba are bumpy, and torturous, and there are incredibly deep water crossings. The reward for getting through the mud and water in the Land Rover is some wonderful wildlife viewing on the open plains that lie close to the camp. Buffalo, elephant, red lechwe, tsessebe and lions are all to be found here. Birding is exceptional too, with flocks of waterfowl abundant, as well as herons, egrets and a good number of birds of prey too. The open terrain makes for excellent viewing opportunities and in this regard we weren’t disappointed. Mating lions, and then a lion hunt were some of the highlights. The lions were moving around the edges of a buffalo herd, but never quite managed to separate a buffalo from the herd. Instead they snatched a young red lechwe which wasn’t nearly enough food for all seven of them. We were also treated to the sight of these swamp lions leaping over a small channel as they kept following along behind the buffalo. On another afternoon we watched 3 lionesses stalk to within a few metres of a large, solitary buffalo bull, but at the last moment, the lionesses decided that the bull was too dangerous and pulled out of a direct attack.
Our very last morning at Duba produced more special sightings when we came across some lionesses with three young cubs playing on an island in the shallow water.
This summer safari turned out to be an unusual one with regard to predator sightings in that whilst we didn’t see leopard or cheetah, we did have lion sightings of exceptional quality. We also enjoyed some wonderful summer skies, with dramatic cloud-build ups adding colour and depth to our viewing. Exceptional summer birds added still more colour and interest to the experience. Combined with the bright green-grass landscapes, it all made for an excellent photographic safari and one that left me with good memories all around.