Trip report Sept/Oct 2007 Botswana

Oct 18th, 2007, 02:59 PM
  #21  
 
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Eric,

Magnificent experience!

There indeed is nothing like the roaring of lions close-up. It goes right through you.

John
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Oct 18th, 2007, 03:55 PM
  #22  
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Thanks for the kind words everybody. I will try to upload photos at some point but as I write I am reloading an external hard drive with 116gigs of photos just from those 9 days. Of course there are many duplicates with just subtly different poses but it will take quite a while to go through. I have had to reload them as the first ext. hard drive was causing my computer to freeze over and over so it was off to Costco to get another one tonight. All my photos are raw so it will take a bit of effort to process them but I promise to do it even if its in small increments. Most of my video is high def and until my tekkie son teaches me how to download it to the computer and then on to the web all I have is a small amount from our little point and shoot.
The photos of the leopard and wild cat were taken after much of the cat was eaten however the tail as some of the hind quarters remain making id fairly easy.
Regards,
Eric
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Oct 18th, 2007, 05:00 PM
  #23  
 
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Geoff

Just prior to our arrival at Kings Pool on 10/1 - there was a fight involving some of the border boys with unknown Lions which resulted in at least one Lion death. Grant Atkinson who compiles Lion pride information in Linyanti for WS was searching for images of surviving Lions to identify them and piece together what happened. Don't know if this isthe same set of Lions or not.
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Oct 18th, 2007, 05:47 PM
  #24  
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Waking up the last morning at Savuti was bittersweet. I couldn't wait for the day to begin but was a bit melancholy that we had to leave. This has been an absolute joy from the manager (Roger), to the guide, (Jonah) to the rest of the staff. It is such a warm camp and the sighting have been incredible.
I remember when we arrived that Roger mentioned it had rained a bit the previous 2 nights before we arrived and so many of the elephants had disappeared into the mopane forest. Any little rain raises the hopes of new leaves on the mopane trees and the elephants seek them out. When it became obvious that the rain was insufficient to produce any new growth the elephants returned in droves. We hadn't been able to get into the wood hide the first two days so the plan was to do it after the morning drive and right before brunch.
We headed out early again and drove down towards the water hole to observe the elephants from a different perspective. There is a bit of a depression, not much but enough that allows one to photograph the eles from slightly below which gives them an even more imposing appearance.
While the drive was relatively quiet we took the opportunity to go to "bush school". We had Jonah give us a mini lesson on how to read spoor with regards to age of the footprints. There were three lion prints very close to each other on the road. One was simply a paw print, the second a paw print with a centipede track over it and the last a paw print with a francolin track over it. Jonah explained that because the centipede is nocturnal and the francolin is out about 4:30-5am one can often tell the age of the lions print. If the paw print is over a centipedes but under a francolin then you know the lion track is after midnight but before 4:30-5am. Luckily I wrote that down or I am sure I would have botched that up.
We did come upon a small journey of giraffe that was walking up to a small rivulet. But before getting there two male giraffes decided to show each other who was the boss. With necks swaying and swatting they bashed each other over and over for about 15 minutes. It looked like giraffes do the Matrix. Once they tuckered each other out they went to drink. Giraffes drinking is very funny. First of all just to get into drinking position is a trick but even more so is their reluctance to bend down. One giraffe spent at least 5 minutes alternately bending and raising its neck closer and closer to the water but never actually drinking. It reminded me of the toy with the bird that bends over many times and finally springs back.
We headed back to camp and down to the hide. There were probably 20 or so eles drinking and bathing along with some zebra, warthogs, the occasional kudu and a yellow billed kite. We drove up to the hide and got out of the vehicle and quietly entered the hide. It is a bit difficult to get into as you have to bend and shimmy to get in. If you are young and nimble like my son it takes about 5 seconds, but for me, well, a bit longer. Really amazing, being that close to the animals with nothing but a few fallen trees separating you from animals. There was no question that the zebras heard us as each time I took a photo they bolted away from the water. It was so predictable that I told my son to get ready and take the shot of them pulling away as I depressed the shutter. The eles couldn't care less and continued to shower themselves and occasionally bully the zebras. We spent 15 minutes or so there before going in for brunch.
Of course no trip would be complete without the requisite trip to the curio shop. We picked up a few things, t-shirts, long sleeved shirts and a few other things. I had previously gotten a Savuti hat as I had left mine at home (I think it was probably intentional so I could justify a hat purchase). To my surprise Roger said "the hat's on us". It's amazing how just such a simple gesture really helped cement what was already a great stay.
We bid farewell to all and boarded the short flight to L. Vumbura. Again we had a 12 seater, not quite as "romantic" as the little 4 or 6 seaters but ok I guess. Flying up to the Delta I was surprised how dry it still appeared and it wasn't until we got almost to the landing strip that some green and permanent water showed up. My last memory of flying to the Delta was of wide water filled channels and lush islands.
Arriving at the airstrip we were greated by Kay, who was to be our private guide for the next 3 nights. As we are in the height of the dry season we were able to drive much closer to the camp before taking a quick 2-3 boat ride to the camp. We were in room #5 which was very nice but quite a hike from the main area. The rooms had been redone but there was no power point to do any charging. I think they will eventually put them in but it hadn't happened yet.
After lunch and our prearranged early tea we set out.
Kay has a habit of pointing out animals so far away that it would take 20 minutes driving to get to them. It was really amazing what he could see. Half the time I thought he was making stuff up only to see what he saw some time later.
My previous time at Vumbura in 2004 the one thing I hadn't seen was Sable so I was hoping...well guess what straight away Kay points to somewhere in the distance and says "Sable". A herd of about 10 antelope mostly females and young males having a late lunch. I was really hoping to see a big bull but no such luck at this point.
There was a report of a cheetah being sighted and we found it but it was "robala" which means sleeping. This was a very common word used by the guides over the radio and I figured it out after a while.
We continued on seeing many tsessebees, kudu, hippos and a many, many birds that Kay identified in such a rapid fire manner that I couldn't remember them if I tried.
On our way back we joined a sighting at which a leopard had killed a lechwe. It was too big to tree so he hid it in some tall grass. It was a pretty good sighting and I must say any day you can see both a cheetah and a leopard (that's 3 leopards, 5 sightings) is a good one. I found that if we got to the rear of the vehicle we were high enough to see and photograph over the grass. While I don't love the high perspective and really much prefer taking pictures as low as possible the high grass made that impossible.
We arrived back at camp and to our surprise found a bottle of S.African champagne and a Botswana flag made of beads given to us to celebrate Botswana Independence Day. Dinner was very special with singing, dancing and traditional dress. All the staff had painted their faces, necks and shoulders with the colors of the Botswana flag and put on a nice show. Dinner was traditional fare which was pretty good except since I don't eat red meat I can only report that it was tasty.
After all the excitement of the past few days I almost relished a time to catch my breath. How 'bout that Sable, cheetah and leopard and its a "slow" day.
Regards,
Eric
eyelaser is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 06:08 PM
  #25  
 
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What a trip you had! I love catabalism...
Leslie
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Oct 18th, 2007, 06:24 PM
  #26  
 
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Hi Geoff,

Thanks ....... also, i remember that Kanawe mentioned that last year a couple of the Selinda females lost out to the Savuti pride next door .......

Hari
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Oct 20th, 2007, 12:44 PM
  #27  
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I couldn't sleep very well as I was really excited about getting back to the leopard with the lechwe kill. Would it still be there? Had hyenas or lions come to the carcass? So we made an extra early start to be the first vehicle there. We pile into the car and head out only to run into an African roadblock...a hippo foraging on the path we need to take with a deep channel on either side. I read in the Botswana driving manual that hippos have right of way over Land Rovers so we waited, revved the engine, waited some more...advanced...retreated and finally with a little gentle persuasion got the big guy into the water and out of our way.
We're off, I'm a little worried as the delay may have cost us but there is little we could do. Our first stop, as it was a bit closer, was to investigate the whereabouts of the cheetah we had seen yesterday. We find her but she is "robala" so we leave her to her beauty sleep and try to find the other spotted cat.
She was left in very high grass so spotting her won't be easy if she is anywhere but by the carcass. Somehow, Kay sees a flick of a tail and points out where our little assassin was sitting. She had managed to keep her kill and stayed in the neighborhood to guard it. She must have gotten a little spooked by our presence and tried to move the carcass a bit. There was a bit of blood, duh, in the grass and she takes quite a bit of time to cover it up with grass. This apparently keeps the odor from getting into the air and attracting other predators or scavengers.
While it was great to see her taking photos was almost impossible...an ear here, a tail there but what the heck.
But wait, I hear it now "Mr. Wilder, I'm ready for my close up"!
She gets up a walks directly on to the termite mound and leans against the cone shaped elevation. My g-d, she is gorgeous with the early morning sun on her face. I can't stop taking shots of her although I remind myself to stop and just look with my eyes. How lucky we are to see her like this and with no one around. Kay has called in the sighting but it is quite some time before we are joined by anyone else. By then, our little friend has repositioned herself to a different slightly less photogenic position but still really nice.(3 leopards, 6sightings)
Since we have had such an exceptional sighting we leave her and try to find some lions. We drive about 10 minutes and find a small pride of about 6 lions, some adult females and a few young males and females lounging in the shade. They don't look too active but do move around a bit and there is some social interaction. Looking about 500 meters into the distance it is easy to see why the lions chose this spot. There is a large herd of buffalo in a line spread out over a very large area. As the morning heated up it was obvious not too much was going to happen so we took the opportunity to see some other things. We headed back to the leopard and is on cue, she decides to move the carcass. She drags, drops, drags, drops, drags the carcass to the base of a tree. What remains is still a substantial amount and it looks like she really has to strain to move it. She keeps looking up as if to try to suss out just how to tree the lechwe. I hoped maybe she would disembowel the lechwe to lighten the load a bit but she had other ideas I guess. She then moved back and forth around the tree trying to find a good vantage point to look out for anything that would be a danger. And then a first for me, first she growls twice (very cool) at what we have no idea, Kay thinks its at the lechwe in the distance and then a few minutes later a distinctive sawing call. Again I had never heard one in person. Unfortunately the video was off so I will have to keep it as an audio memory in my head only. There was no reply to the call (boy had I hoped for a response and a mating pair...Matt you are one lucky guy seeing that at MM).
Bad news on the way, baboons! From a neighboring island we could see them coming slowly, not seeing her. If they climb a tree and look our way she will have to make her escape and fast. A tense half hour passes as the baboons get closer. We think she may believe they see her and she quietly turns around lowers her belly to the ground and slithers away into the hight reed grass.
The chances she gets to keep her kill are now slimmer as the carcass is in the open as she wasn't able to tree it. We will see later or tomorrow what happened but I'm not optimistic.(3L, 7sightings)
So we head back to camp and arrive for lunch well after everyone has finished. A table for two is set up with a delicious lunch which we eat pretty quickly as we needed to get some video batteries charged.
Three o'clock tea comes and we quickly grab a snack and some iced coffee before heading out. Straightaway we head back to our sleeping cheetah (Chris). We found him laying around again but his attitude was different. This turned into a marathon session (a prelude to Chitabe). In the distance is a herd of impala which is obviously oblivious to his presence. They come closer and Chris gets up and shows interest in a late afternoon meal. But what happened next changed my feeling about one animal forever. I loved giraffe, they are graceful, beautiful amazing animals but in this instance they were a pain in the ...
over the next hour no less than a dozen of them would walk to about 50meters of the cheetah and just stare at him. Well thanks a lot, just what he needed a bunch of 5meter long necks pointing the way. You would think the impala would realize that one: lots of giraffe looking in one direction and two: a Land Rover that hadn't moved for hours indicated something. Another couple of vehicles joined the sighting as the action started to pick up. Chris got up a few times into a typical pre-chase crouch alternately lifting and gently placing his fore paw down. Then she lay down again. Then up again as the imapala come closer. We think she realizes her angle is off but there is too much open ground to cover between he and his intended prey. Finally he takes the opportunity to slink away in the opposite direction about 50meters, change the angle of attack and starts moving a fast walk. I am so nervous I can hardly breathe. I had felt this way a few times earlier but now I could feel it. We told Kay not to move if he took off to try to get a video of the whole chase without bouncing around.
Not to be! The impala must have realized something was afoot as they changed their direction and instead of coming towards us they veered around an island and out of harms way. I am very, very disappointed but the anticipation was thrilling and it takes about 30 minutes before my heart rate ratchets back down to normal. I just keep shaking my head and say to my son, Jeff, that this is incredible...the hits just keep coming.
The night drive was pretty quiet but after that day I really didn't mind. Dinner and a cozy bed awaiting and a full day out in store starting the next morning.
eyelaser is offline  
Oct 20th, 2007, 01:01 PM
  #28  
 
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"It was only about 7:30 or so and I felt like I had had a full day already" AWESOME!

"116gigs of photos just from those 9 days" CAN'T WAIT TO SEE!

Your writing is fantastic, I am hooked! Would love to do a similar trip in 2010.

Just hearing lion roars and elephant trumpeting on the Africam gives me goosebumps. I can't wait to experience it for real.

CarlaM is offline  
Oct 20th, 2007, 01:09 PM
  #29  
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Thanks Carla, you made me blush
Eric
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Oct 21st, 2007, 05:35 PM
  #30  
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One of the things I loved about Kay was that after 28 years as a guide he still loves the bush. No matter how long we wanted to stay out he not only obliged but seemed happier than if we chose to come back to camp. So, having said that we embarked on a full day game drive. The only thing that prevented us from driving all the way to Tanzania was time and gasoline. While this was a long day it really didn't have any seminal sightings that were truly memorable. The day though was more about the unknown as we tracked the 1000+ buffalo and lion pride that we had seen the prior day. This was truly a tracking exercise as we followed buffalo spoor for miles. Kay was sure we would eventually find them and I bet we would if we had another 24 hours and an amphibious vehicle that would have allowed us to actually get onto Duba Plains property. We nearly got there but the water was too high to cross. On the way we had elephant encounters. For about 15 minutes an ele stared at us from a island mound standing on 3 legs with the right front off the ground about 6 inches. I am not sure why she did this but it was amazing to watch. A little trumpeting, head shaking and dirt kicking warned us to stay clear of her young one. Being that we were probably 6 feet or so lower than she was she made an even more imposing presence.
We were lucky to see a number of beautiful fish eagles, tawneys and bataleurs. My son who has much more photographic patience than I do with birds got some fantastic take off and flight pictures.
At one point we saw a strange long flat pattern of tracks and Kay got out of the vehicle to investigate. Alright, walking 10-15 meters is one thing but he walked for over a hundred into the bush. I said to my son this was like City Slickers when the guides disappeared and never returned. I really hoped he left the keys just in case...but really what could I do I never learned how to drive a stick. It was very interesting as we speculated what had made those tracks...an elephant trunk, a very large fat snake, I really couldn't figure it out and neither could another guide who stopped to make sure we were ok. On Kay's return he pronounced that the tracks were from a young elephant who was dragging a broken hind leg...fascinating. He had thought initially it might have been a leopard's drag mark but after tracking it into the bush he figured out what it was. I actually thought it might make a great African game show. Tracks are made and the guides have to figure out what made them and how. Sort of CSI Botswana.
Since we weren't having much luck finding our buffalos or lions we had time to talk a bit with Kay. After 28 years he has a lot of stories and we thought it would be fascinating to record a few of his more memorable sightings. So with my son training the video on him Kay related some of his most special sightings. This was an afternoon drive that I will remember much more so for the human than the animal interactions.
We had a wonderful bush lunch and once we reached almost to Duba Plains without a successful tracking of our quarry we headed back towards camp.
We had been lucky to see a few hyenas in the morning in some nice light but I had wondered whether our luck had begun to run out. After all we had seen so many leopards, cheetahs, and lions that I knew it couldn't last. Getting closer to Savuti we did hear there were some lions that had been located some distance away. So with some aggressive driving we made our way to them. First though we checked on the leopard from the day before...no carcass, no leopard. Evidently not treeing the kill eventually caused her to have to abandon her kill to scavengers. There were no cheetahs to be seen either. So we continued towards the lions. The weather had changed and we had been rained on pretty good a while earlier and so the ponchos were out. Since we had taken the top off we were certainly at the mercy of the elements. The skies had cleared though and it looked like a beautiful sunset and early evening. We reached the area where the lions were resting and waited for another vehicle to pull out. About 5 other cars had been there and this was really the first time at a traffic jam. Finally we pulled in a were able to observe 2 adult females and two sub-adult males. The lighting was wonderful off their tawny coats as one male whose mane was filling in nicely climbed onto a large fallen tree branch. Just then Kay turned to me and said "look over there, a leopard". Wouldn't you know it sitting in a small flimsy tree was a leopard.(4th new leopard and 8th sighting I think) As the sun was setting what was seen was a classical leopard silouhette. Kay surmised that the lions saw the leopard and chased it. The kicker was the tree was actually in the water and the leopard was afraid to get down because of the crocs below and the lions across.
And then if not enough as the lions started to walk away on their early evening patrol a rainbow came out. Sure it was pretty faint but just with enough definition to show up in the photos with the lions (if you have a lot of imagination...I promise its there
The remainder of the night drive was quiet and so we headed back to camp knowing we only had one drive left at L. Vumbura before heading to Chitabe the following afternoon.
eyelaser is offline  
Oct 22nd, 2007, 05:46 PM
  #31  
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We had planned in advance to pack the night before and load everything into the vehicle so that our morning game drive would end with us arriving for our flight to Chitabe at 12:50. It is really amazing how Kay really maximized our time in the bush. Yesterday, mid afternoon when it was apparent we were not going to find the lions or buffalo Kay asked if we wanted to go back to Savuti propper. I misunderstood his question and said it would be ok to return but I had a feeling that communication was lacking so I asked if he meant go back for lunch/tea or just back to the Savuti concession to search that area for game. He meant head back to the general area of Savuti and he thought I meant I wanted to go back to the camp. When I told him, no, I want to stay out a broad ear to ear smile appeared on his face and he said, "That's what I like to hear".
He is truly at home in the bush.
So it was no surprise that he planned the final morning's activities to avoid returning the camp.
It had been very quiet the past 24 hours with not too much being seen by anyone especially regarding the lions. So we made it our quest to find them. (I am trying to read my journal from this morning but I must have written it half asleep. It looks like it was written by a five year old and it is taking a bit of time to decipher. Many evenings I tried to write in my journal only to fall asleep, wake, sleep etc. until I finally put the journal down.)
About a half hour or so into the drive we ran into a hyena finishing off something or other. It was literally finished and walking away and plopped itself down near one of the palm islands. Soon it was joined by a few other hyenas and we spent some time with them. We continued on our lion quest. A bit later I noticed a vulture flying in the distance and then a yellow billed kite and also a bateleur. I would like to believe it was only I that noticed it but my previous days' dealings with Kay suggested that not only had he seen the birds but well in advance of me. He said nothing however until I asked if we should investigate. "Of course", he said as we headed in the general direction of the birds. We couldn't really tell if they had landed as it was past a grove of trees. As we approached the area where we anticipated they should be we encountered even more scavengers, including a jackal. Now I was getting excited, a kill, I am sure of it. Maybe an cheetah, leopard or a pride of lions devouring some poor antelope or zebra. Alas, all we found was the skeletal remains with about 20-30 vultures in the trees, jackal on the bones and no predators in sight. Kay felt it had been a lion kill earlier that morning and surmised that they probably went down to the water to drink after finishing their meal. So we headed to the river and as if by magic ran into some very satisfied lions. They were sitting around in the shade, not too animated, but not asleep either. while we watched them a number of elephants appeared one at a time down river. This must have been a favorite elephant bath site as they came in clean and grey and left almost jet black. It was amazing to see them slurp up the muddy water and spray it on their entire body. Even their pearly white tusks were now black. Lots of fun to watch and the photos of back mud flying out of their trunks was priceless.
Well, after a while it was obvious that our time was up and we needed to head to the air strip. We had had a wonderful time and we loved every minute of our stay.
Again it is with trepidation that we say goodbye to Kay as we board the 20 minute flight to Chitabe. The past 6 days have been so great I can't imagine it could get any better.
I was really surprised by the flight to Chitabe which is the camp closest to Maun. I didn't expect there would be as much greenery and river channels but it was beautiful. Once we got closer though the brown foliage again became apparent.
We arrived and were greeted by Phinley who was wearing a yellow jacket over his bush shirt that said "Ground Crew". I chuckled at that and remembered arriving at Mala Mala a couple of years back to Nils Klure wearing a similar jacket.
Our habit is to have our cameras reading and at least one unpacked ready to go for the "game drive" to camp. Phinley said it would be about 30-35 minutes till we arrived. I have heard of people getting off the plane seeing stuff but it had never happened to me so when my son, after driving about 5 minutes pointed right and said "lion" I just shook my head and laughed. This lone female was out at 1:30pm for an afternoon hunt. Apparently she has at least 2 cubs and is not part of a pride. The pride structure in this area has really fallen apart. There are males that come in the area, impregnate females, and then leave. Without protection the offspring often do not survive as the next male kills them in order to bring the female back into oestrous. So as a single female without any help she must hunt on her own. It was obvious she hadn't eaten for at least a few days as she was very lean and of even more concern her milk was drying up. She needed a meal and soon or both she and her cubs would be doomed. So it was not surprising to see her hunting in the heat of the afternoon. First she stalked some impala but the alarm calls alerted the herd so she continued on. We followed her through some tough terrain and then Phinley just drove past her around some trees and into a meadow like area. This was the beginning of what I eventually came to realize was his incredible experience and his knowing where the animals would go even before they knew where they were going. We waited about 2-3 minutes and she appeared, coming through the bush and getting into a low crouch blocked from the view of the impalas and baboons who were playing a hundred meters or so away. A quick 180 degree turn and she went behind the trees made another 180 turn and started to stalk her prey. We could see her start her run as she chased the baboons. She was too impatient and started her run too early. The baboons bolted and got up a tree and the impalas flew past. No luck, but not deterred she continued on. Again we headed out leaving her behind only to see her appear again as she stalked a bush buck. We positioned ourselves high up above both the bush buck which was half way between ourselves and the lion. She stayed as low as possible as the bush buck grazed. Ever so slowly she moved a bit closer and we were ready for the chase. What she did next was unexpected though. She lifted her head and it seemed the bush buck must have seen her. Quickly lowering herself into the tall reeds she tried to hide. After a few minutes the bush buck which had been a bit nervous settled down and started grazing again. Once it put its head down to eat the lion popped up again. Now the jig was up...she was outed and the bushbuck alarmed and bolted. Her technique just seemed off, as though she was desperate and took chances that she ordinarily would not have. Continuing on she came to 2 more bushbucks that saw her before she saw them and very quickly left the area. We follower her for another 20 minutes or so until she reached a termite mound from which she scouted out the area. Finally she put her head down and took a nap.
This gave us the opportunity to head to camp to check in. Unbelievable, it was now almost 4pm...2 1/2hrs. since we landed before we got to camp.
We hadn't eaten anything since breakfast and the good folks at L. Vumbura had alerted Chitabe that we would be having lunch there. I really wasn't that hungry but my son was famished so I asked if they could pack up the lunch so we could head back out. We actually never got to the room as we had a quick security briefing, signed the requisite documents and headed back out.
We had passed the other group that was staying at the camp and they were headed back towards the lion we had left.
After a quick turnaround we headed back out and received word that our sleeping lion hadn't really been sleeping too much and was nowhere to be seen. The other group looked high and low for her.Had she continued on. Uh, not exactly, we ran into her just lying on the side of the road. This was getting eerie. Now, she was really asleep though so we drove on. The other group reported they had found a leopard so off we went to try to join the sighting. But not 5 minutes later Phinley points and says "another leopard". Oh come on this is really getting rediculous, its not that easy. Laying on a branch about 2-3meters up is a beautiful female leopard. Phinley says he is not sure which leopard it is. There is a mother with 2 independent cubs. The cubs do very well with the vehicles but the mother is skittish. We know that the other vehicle is with the male cub so this is either the mother or female cub. Phinley explains how he will approach her from an angle to not upset her. After a bit it it obvious to him it is the cub and she lets us get very close. She eventually gets down, walks through some brush and then up another tree. A very cooperative leopard I must say. But as we all know, when they want to disappear they just vanish. We then try to join the other group with her brother. This guy had been doing really well until he sustained an injury possibly from a larger mature male and was in really bad shape. There was a large gash on his leg and a very painful open would on his belly. We didn't get a great look at him as the other vehicles (2 others) were in the lead and he was going through some pretty dense stuff. I was actually surprised that he would try to go this route rather than on the road especially with his injury. So while we had 2 new leopards, the second sighting was fleeting. I wondered if we would see him again.
We headed back to camp for a wonderful dinner and a strange small world coincidence. Engaging in conversation with the other three couples I learned that 2 were from England and one Italian. I asked where they lived in England and they replied London, and having lived there myself in the mid 1980's I asked where. There answer was that they lived around the corner from where we had lived and even stranger they knew the older couple that lived downstairs from us as well as their children very well. This really brought back some wonderful memories.
Well, it was finally time to get some shut eye.
eyelaser is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2007, 05:06 PM
  #32  
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As we had at Savuti and L. Vumbura we arranged for a 5am wake up in order to be out just before sunrise. Well the wake up call came but no one came to collect us till 5:50 and so best laid plans...Anyway we were then told that we could have come to the main area on our own. I don't ever remember being able to do that anywhere else before daylight so I was a bit surprised. So off we went a bit after 6am. After about 45 minutes we heard a report of a leopard sighted. When we arrived at the area there were already 4 vehicles there so we just sat around away from the action and just to bide our time. I guess a couple of the vehicles had enough and left. Phinley decided to hang back on the other side of a copse of trees in order not to stress the animal any more. I really appreciated his approach and I think he recognized we understood his philosophy. Amazingly, we had barely moved and the leopard walked through the bush and climbed the large sausage tree right in front of us. We had a perfect view of the young male leopard that we had only gotten a glimpse of last night. Two other vehicles spent about 15 minutes with us watching him sit on a branch about 7-10 meters above us. Apparently everyone else got bored watching him simply shift position and they bolted to go find a pair of male lions that had been sighted.
So we just sat and waited, and waited and waited. The leopard would occasionally get up, turn around, lick his paws and clean his wound but not much else. Two herds of impala would pass by but at least 40 meters into the open grassland making any thought of a stalk and kill attempt impossible. Then a troop of baboons started to come by. It was very apparent how nervous the leopard had become as his body tensed and he tried to flatten his body and look very small on the branch. Phinley explained how the baboons would try to kill a leopard that it found during the day sort of in retribution for leopards killing baboons at night. Fortunately they passed by without noticing and quickly the leopard's body language changed and he visibly relaxed.
It was already about and hour and a half since we began our vigil and to be honest I was getting a bit itchy. Phinley had explained that as the day got hotter the various antelopes would seek out the shade and what better place than under a sausage tree with its fallen flowers. Alright, we'll sit a bit longer; after all there are worse things to do than watch a leopard for hours at a time. I had planned out in my mind how I would take the shot if the opportunity did actually arise and the leopard dropped from the tree on unsuspecting prey. I took numerous test shots to ensure the proper exposure and enough vertical clearance to get the picture I wanted. I half kiddingly asked Phinley if it would get warm enough by 10am for the animals to seek shade. Of course he said it could be any time...I knew that! So we waited some more...I said, "we waited 2+ hours already what's a little more time. We spent the time talking, occasionally taking a shot as the leopard shifted position but to be honest getting a little bored.
Jeff and I were a bit distracted for a minute when Phinley said, "Look guys". Well, well what do we have here. A small herd of kudu and an impala had indeed sought out shade right under our very own leopard. Eating the grass and the flowers they were oblivious to the danger that lurked overhead. But there was a problem. I guess the antelope had come in so quickly that the leopard had no time to reposition himself on the branch and was facing in the wrong direction. In order to pounce it would have to turn around and come down to the V in the tree and do so without making any noise or having his shaddow disturb the animals below. Remarkably he did so and inched his way into position. I could hardly breathe in anticipation. The seconds seemed like minutes as I held the camera to my eye making sure the focus point was on the leopard, the correct burst rate selected, a fast enough speed and appropriate f-stop programmed. And then in the blink of an eye it happened...like a missle being launched he jumped from the tree about 5-7meters both out and down on to the back of a large female kudu. Unfortunately, just as the Spanish Knight of the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade said, "He chose poorly". He managed to land on the kudus back, get his claws into the animal but slide back towards the hind quarters and like a bucking bronco or bull was rudely flipped off doing a full 360 in the air. In my little viewfinder I thought I had seen what was to be a kill but both Phinley and Jeff realized that the attempt had fallen short.
Despite the leopard's failure we were giddy. It was just the most amazing thing we had ever seen and absolutely worth the 3 hour wait. Both the leopard and the kudu and vacated the area and we took about 10 minutes to let our heart rates come back to normal as we looked at the video footage and the still. I hoped we nailed it and on review I think we did a pretty good job.
It was now 10:40 and a perfect time to head back to camp for brunch. We showed the video and stills to the other people who had been there and left and they told us they had indeed found the 2 male lions....sleeping!
After lunch we headed back to our room and I wanted to take a shower as it had been a while since I had the opportunity. Guess what, it still hadn't been fixed so getting clean was still on hold. Finally about 2pm the heater was fixed and I was able to enjoy a nice outdoor shower and wash the dust off. There were about half a dozen eles playing around our tent and then a troop of about the same number of baboons jumping and running and swinging from branches....and oh yeah...monkey sex!
Nothing like being a voyeur from inside your tent taking photos through mesh...has a weird quality to the pictures.
Time for a quick tea at 3 and off by 3:15 for the pm drive. Lots of general game and some raptors including a fish eagle and 2 hawk eagles that were too skittish to photograph. We passed a hyena taking a mud bath and a couple of black backed jackals as well. Nearing a channel we must have startled a herd of impala as they took off at high speed jumping as the ran.
It was getting to sundowner time and while we really had not done that too much before after the morning drive I think we deserved a little celebration. I had had the champagne from L. Vumbura chilled and the three of us enjoyed it immensely. The night drive was pretty uneventful till we just happened to run into another leopard who appeared to be stalking something or another. It took about 10 minutes for him or her to lose us but even that sighting was pretty good as we watched it try to get close to some impala.
The evening plans were a bit different tonight as we were scheduled to sleep at the hide. I understand there are two hides at Chitabe. One used primarily by main camp and the one we were using which was actually designed to be used by the walking trails people.
Again, this turned out to be another great night's sleep as it was quiet (much to my dismay). Jeff and I had mattresses with mosquito netting over us while Phinley and another guide slept in a pup tent down below.
Another special day in Africa...its getting near the end with only 2 nights left...
eyelaser is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2007, 06:32 PM
  #33  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
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Hi Eric,

How far apart are Savuti and Duma Tau camps? ....... Would you recommend one over the other and if so, why? in terms of the game drive areas.

I understand that the cheetah love the savuti channel?

Thks
Hari
HariS is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2007, 06:37 PM
  #34  
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
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Eric, you should be a screenwriter. You have a great talent for visual storytelling. And you're enthusiasm is infectious. We're off to L. Vumbura and Chitabe is a week, so it's particularly exciting.
Leslie
LAleslie is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2007, 07:48 PM
  #35  
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Hari, Savuti and Duma Tau are close enough that we could drive to the Duma Tau hide near the Linyanti River in a couple of hours of slow driving. If I had to guess I would saw maybe 10-20km but I could be way off. We didn't see any Duma Tau vehicles at Savuti it was just our craziness that got us all the way there. We actually got close enough to see the Duma Tau tents from a about 150 meters away. If I find out just how close I'll let you know. I bet someone else on the forum knows for sure.
We didn't stay at Duma Tau but I know I could stay at Savuti indefinitely. Especially in the dry season there is so much action at the water hole that coming back to camp is a real treat and the wood hide allows for a unique perspective. I wondered how secure I would feel in it but it at least appeared to be very safe.
I would say Savuti has been my favorite camp in Botswana and that includes two stays at Mombo when I factor in the game, accomodations and staff. The diversity of game was also a real positive.


LAleslie, I am sooooo jealous! If you take me I'll write your trip report Have an incredible time and take time to smell the sage. I will finish my trip report in another day and then I will try to process and post photos.
I am very flattered that you have enjoyed my trip report and I can tell you it has been fun writing it.
Thanks,
Eric
eyelaser is offline  
Oct 24th, 2007, 07:06 AM
  #36  
 
Join Date: May 2004
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Eric: the leopard leaping from the tree onto the kudu only to be bucked into a 360 degree dismount I believe is the most amazing sighting I have ever seen described here! I would love to see that video, although I'm sure that being there had to take your breath away.
PredatorBiologist is offline  
Oct 24th, 2007, 08:52 AM
  #37  
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I can tell you that for me it was the single most incredible thing I have ever seen on all my safaris. We indeed do have video but it is high def and requires some more sophisticated inputing and processing than I can do. My middle son is our tekkie guy but he is in his senior year and very busy with his own life. I am hoping to get him to just load a small portion of all the video we took which would include this. In the mean time I will post the still photos which show the leap, landing but unfortunately not the flip.
By the way I did get a few real good shots of an African Wild Cat during the day as well as a Selous Mongoose if you still need them.
Regards,
Eric
eyelaser is offline  
Oct 24th, 2007, 11:38 AM
  #38  
 
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What an ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE trip report... I caught myself actually holding my breath more than once whilst reading it!

Truly, you have captured the excitement and joy of your experiences SO well it's just CAPTIVATING!

Can't wait to see any pictures / videos you upload!
Kavey is offline  
Oct 24th, 2007, 11:54 AM
  #39  
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
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Wow Eric, your story about the leopard and the kudu is thrilling. What a sight! Would love to see the photos and/or video of that encounter. Your trip just keeps getting better. Still hooked! Keep it coming. <)
CarlaM is offline  
Oct 24th, 2007, 01:50 PM
  #40  
 
Join Date: May 2004
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Eric: lucky you to have tech help! Look forward to seeing the pics and of course video down the road -- sounds like its well worth the wait and only fair since that's what you had to do to capture the scene. I have had a couple excellent African wild cat photos contributed but the Selous mongoose will be a new species for the project! Thanks for your help!!
PredatorBiologist is offline  

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