Kwando did it again

Sep 17th, 2007, 04:20 AM
  #1  
mv
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Kwando did it again

First instalment
My girlfriend and I are just back from 3 weeks in Southern Africa.
We spent 8 days at the Kwando properties in Botswana and saw Wild Dogs. Cheetah, Lion and Hyena kills. We also saw tree climbimg Lions, Honey Badger, Sable, Roan and Porcupines.
Back to the beginning
Upon arrival at Joburg we were metby Liz from Sunny Skies Tours and went to pick up our rental car.
4 hours later we were at The Cavern in the Drakensberg. Nice hotel with stunning views.
The following day we did a 17km trek in the Drakensberg. On the way we had nice sightings of Baboon, Black Eagles, Jackal Buzzard and the highlight: Bearded Vulture.
From the Cavern we went to a relatively new game lodge outside Ladysmith called Umzolozolo. It looked great on the website!
Rooms were very nice with good views, food was OK and the wine was crap. Gameviewing was good if you like antelopes. They advertise the big five plus Cheetah and Wild Dogs. The Wild Dogs have run back to Hluhluwe Umfolozi (400 km away) and the cats were no way to be seen even if some of them are collared and a researcher was driving around most of the time with a tracking device (no offroad driving allowed).
However we did gewt to see Rhino (it was my girlfriends first trip to Africa and we new that we would not see Rhino in Botswana).
From Umzolozolo we drove 8 hours to St Lucia on the Indian Ocean. We stayed at a small guest house called Lalapanzi. A little rundown but very nice. Due to strong winds we never got to do the whalewatching but we managed a boatcruise to see Hippo and plenty of huge Crocodiles. We had some very nice seafood in town and before we left we did a guided birding trip where the highlight was a Narina Trogon (my first).
After St Lucia we spent the weekend with friends in Joburg before out trip to Livingstone and Botswana
Michael
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Sep 17th, 2007, 05:50 AM
  #2  
 
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MV

Hope there's more to come, and Icould certainly take a little more Drakensberg and St.Lucia detail. Great birds, congratulations on Narina Trogon and Bearded Vulture etc.
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Sep 17th, 2007, 07:21 AM
  #3  
mv
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Hi Matt
there is a lot more to follow.
Just to elaborate a little more.
The Cavern is in an area with a couple more hotels not to far from the Amphiteatre and the Tugela Falls (by some considered the second highest falls in the world). The Cavern has been around for more than 50 years and caters mainly for South Africans. We had a nice room with heated floors and a small patio. All meals are included and of pretty good quality. There are some nice walks from the hotel and many more within a 20km radius. Birding in the gardens are excellent. I saw about 60 species in two days eventhough it was very windy and cold. I saw Halfcollared Kingfisher in the gardens and lots of sunbirds, included the Southern doublecollared Sunbird.
St Lucia is a birders paradise. As previously mentioned we hired a local Zulu birding guide. We did a 2,5 hours walk and for the 2 of us it cost about 20 USD. Other nice birds included crowned and Trumpeter Hornbills, Longcrested Eagle, Paradise Flycatcher, Brown Robin, African Black Oystercatcher and Pinkbacked Pelican.
The boat trip was a bit commercial but the skipper was an avid birder who gave me one of his own pictures of a Mangrove Kingfisher as he was not able to find one on the trip. He also pointed out where in town I should llok for birds. Due to a heavy storm in the Indian Ocean the Whale watching boats had not been able to go out for a week!
There was plenty of small game in St Lucia with lots of Vervet Monkeys, Red Duiker and Bushbuck seen in various gardens. We did not have enough time, but otherwise there are walking trails where you can see Zebra, Wildebeest, Warthogs etc.
A detailed report about Livingstone and Botswana will follow shortly
Michael
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Sep 17th, 2007, 08:09 AM
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mv: Welcome back and excited to hear Kwando delivered for you again!

Looking forward to reading all about it and especially to seeing more of your brilliant photos -- you have captured more action with the camera at Kwando than any other poster that I can recall.
PredatorBiologist is offline  
Sep 17th, 2007, 08:58 AM
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Hi Michael,

Welcome back! Sounds like you had yet another amayzing trip ...... Cant wait to hear all the details from the camps, including the details of the cheetah and wild dogs ..... and yes, pictures too when you get the chance to do so!

Rgds,
Hari
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Sep 17th, 2007, 10:54 AM
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Typo : Amazing .....
HariS is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 06:32 AM
  #7  
mv
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Second instalment
After an uneventful flight we were taken to the Livingstone museum. The museum might have been interesting was it not for the fact that they had a black out an the rooms were very dark!
From here we went to Songwe camp. Songwe is about 30 minutes drive from the falls and is located right on the edge of the gorge. Each shower has a direct view into the gorge and you can book a bath with either a sunrise or sunset view. The rooms are built as traditional African huts. Quite basic but nice.
We spent the first morning fishing upstream from the falls and caught some small Tigerfish. Birding was good with Western Banded Snake Eagle, Gymnogene and Rock Pratincole.
Returning from the fishing we had a short lunch at the Zambezi sun. As we had almost finished our burgers a huge female Baboon walked up to our table, stood up and looked us straight in the eyes while she stole the remainder of our food from the plates. Staff at the restaurant reacted far to late. The encounter was too close for comfort.
We continued with a guided tour of the falls. Very nice but the water is already quite low on the Zambian side.
In the evening we did a sunset cruise on the Zambezi. Very relaxing with some nice sightings of Hippo and Giraffe.
After returning to camp we were treated with a traditional African evening. The camp managers Dorothy and Emmanuel had invited a few African friends and we had a nice evening with good food, dancing and singing.
The next morning we had an early road transfer to Kasane followed by a 45 minute flight to Lagoon camp
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Sep 18th, 2007, 06:40 AM
  #8  
mv
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Third instalment
Arriving at Lagoon we were picked up by the camp manager Jonah.
Our private guide was going to be Spencer but he was on his way as he had been guiding Skimmer at Lebala in the morning.
We had a nice afternoon where at least 150 Elephants came down to drink and relax at the Lagoon in front of camp.
The first evening we went up north to look for the Dogs. Lots of Elephants but no tracks of the dogs. On the way back to camp another vehicle reported that the dogs had crossed our vehicle tracks so we had a good starting point for the next morning. The next morning we picked up the tracks and after 2 hours+ of tracking (3 vehicles) we came across two Hyenas that had taken over an Impala from the Dogs. Another half hour of tracking lead us to the dogs: 6 adults and 9 healthy puppies.
In the afternoon we caught up with the dogs and saw greeting ceremonies and regurgitation until the dogs got of to a late hunt. They started chasing some Sable (herd of 35) but the Bull and old females would not let them. By now it was getting dark and the dogs were heading into the mopane so it was time to say goodbye. On the way back we saw several Wild Cats (incl a kitten) and some Porcupine. Other nice sightings at Lagoon included Roan and four young male Lions.
Michael
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Sep 18th, 2007, 11:17 AM
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Great start MV, keep it coming! Excellent that all 9 pups have made it thus far, the pack strength is going to go way up if this litter remains successful.
PredatorBiologist is offline  
Sep 18th, 2007, 01:41 PM
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Wow, really enjoying the report so far, sounds like a great trip!
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Sep 18th, 2007, 02:11 PM
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bat
 
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Thanks Michael.
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Sep 19th, 2007, 12:04 AM
  #12  
mv
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Fourth instalment
Time to leave Lagoon and head for Lebala (still with Spencer as a private guide. Our tracker was Baruti. One of the best I have ever had, which was not a surprise as he is the brother of Doctor!)
Spencer had received news that the two Cheetah brothers (aka the Savuti Brothers) were back after having been away for a long time and that a female Cheetah was also being sigthed in the southern part of the concession. We decided to go straight down to Lebala and have a look before checking in at Lebala. We found the two brothers quite quickly resting in the shade so we went down to see the female Cheetah. She was only 50m from the Selinda border and looked like she was heading south. First thing in the afternoon we went looking for the boys. After a some tracking we found them hunting. They had eyed some Kudu in the thickets. The brothers crouched and sneaked into position under a dead tree. They let the first 5-6 Kudu walk slowly by and we thought that they had blown it, but five minutes later some more Kudu showed up. The brothers targeted a young female and after a short chase they had it down in the thickets which made it difficult to take pictures. Thankfully we were in a private vehicle so that I could lie down across the seats to get an angle and get some nice shots. We left them as it got dark but returned an hour later by which time the Hyenas had taken over.
The next morning we found them with full bellies so we decided to go further south to look for the female. As we drove past Lechwe Island we found two male Lions. I saw them two years ago (close to Lagoon). The one male is blind on one eye and is known to be aggressive. The two males were trailing a herd of 2000 Buffaloes. The one male put himself in a nice position for five Buffaloes trailing the bulk of the herd but for some reason he let them pass only 20 meters away. We thought this was the end of it but suddenly the two Lions decided to cross the small channel and walk onto Lechwe Island. We wanted to cross as well but the water was deep and the banks quite steep. At the time we could not get radio contact so Spencer decided not to attempt the crossing until he was sure we had radiocontact. We could see quite a lot of commotion on the Island as some Bulls were regrouping. Finally we got radiocontact and after a few attempts made the crossing to find that the Lions had just taken down a young Buffalo. After watching them eat for a while we started heading back to camp. As we were crossing the channel again we saw Lesser Jacana and Purple Gallinule. On the way back we saw lots of plains game and several Roan Antelope.
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Sep 19th, 2007, 05:52 AM
  #13  
mv
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Fifth instalment
During the afternoon the herd of 2000+ Buffalo had moved north and was passing camp as we were having our high tea. The Cheetah brothers were slowly moving north marking their territory and the two male Lions still busy eating the Buffalo. The night drive provided some Wild cats and a Serval. Met the new CEO of Kwando, Sue, at the camp.
The next morning we caught up with the Cheetah brothers after some serious tracking. Shortly after finding the Cheetah we heard noises made by Hyenas and went to investigate. Three Hyenas had killed a baby Buffalo minutes before we arrived and they were feasting with 4-5 more Hyena in the background. These Hyenas were not allowed to join the meal as they were either from a different Clan and/or lower ranking males (at least one). Soon the Yellowbilled Kites were flying around looking for scraps. One Kite was sitting in a nearby tree and was continously attacked by the Blacksmith Lapwings.
In the afternoon we tried to find the Cheetahs again but lost their tracks going into a wet area where we could not follow. Another couple of Wild Cats during the night drive.
The last morning we found some Hyenas fighting over the carcass of a Reedbuck that most likely had been killed by the the two Cheetahs, that we soon found with full bellies. We left them to go down south where we saw a lot of general game.
Birding at Lebala included Lesser Spotted Eagle, Dickinsons Kestrel, Mayers Parrotts, Carmine Bee Eaters, Bradfields Hornbill and many others.
mv is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 06:44 AM
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Very thrilling report, Michael ...... thanks and awesome sightings as you have mentioned. Glad to note that the two cheetah boys are doing good and hunting at will.

Hari
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Sep 19th, 2007, 06:56 AM
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Quick question, Michael .... do you feel the 4 young lions are ready to take over the pride from the two big males lions yet? either way, i hope the 8 lion cubs are still keeping well and out of harm's way.....

Thanks,
Hari
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Sep 19th, 2007, 07:00 AM
  #16  
mv
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Hari
I think it will be a while before the four young males take over. One night the were calling in and around camp but the guides believe that they moved away because some other Liond were responding from the Namibian side.
However it will be a very strong coalition once they take over. Apparantly they have taken to killing Elephants!
Michael
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Sep 19th, 2007, 07:35 AM
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Great sightings, particularly of hunting Hyena - always good to destroy those stereotypes.
napamatt is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 09:46 AM
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Your report is great! I wonder what Kwando camps would be like in May as high season is out of my range.
raelond is offline  
Sep 19th, 2007, 10:08 AM
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Great report Michael. You are making me rethink my next safari experience...

Raelond, understanding there still is luck involved, I had an amazing February experience at Kwando Camps, and can not imagine how it could have been any better in high season.

Richard
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Sep 19th, 2007, 11:31 AM
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Thanks, Michael ..... you are right about the elephants, i saw them feeding on elephant back in june with Spencer.

Hari
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