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Trip To Kwando Lebala/Lagoon August 2010

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Aug 22nd, 2010, 09:23 PM
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Trip To Kwando Lebala/Lagoon August 2010

Hello,

First of all, many Thanks to everyone at Lagoon and Lebala camp for another very memorable trip. My friends and guides Spencer and Moeti for whom I don't have enough words to express my gratitude and respect for their dedication and work ethic. They are the essence of our safaris and something that makes it feel Home away from Home .......

Huge Thank You to the team at Lagoon camp., headed by Keone and Lebo. They truly make Lagoon one of the most flexible camps I've ever been at (True, I've also said that of Little Kwara before). Camp is always organized to perfection. True, Lagoon is going to get a much needed overhaul later in the year, but, here's hoping the fantastic atmosphere remains.

Thank You to Charles and Hermenah and their team at Lebala. Always going to be like home -

Introduction of brunch menus and more fresh vegetables and fruits into the menus are indeed, very refreshing. Thankfully, the cooked breakfast is only optional. Never been a fan of it.

Oddly, I found for the first time in-room safes at the Kwando camps. Never had one before (probably a demand from those who have love for the Wilderness)
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Aug 22nd, 2010, 09:25 PM
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Before I get into my game viewing highlights, would like to mention a bit about the current weather patterns in Botswana causing all the changing patterns in water flow and water levels and it's impact on game viewing. Atleast, what I think of it, in my humble opinion .........

I picked the time of the year, as I wanted a change up from September/October. Two reasons, I have work committments this year and am busy. Also, I was unhappy with the early rains last year and wanted better light conditions for photography. That I can't complain of, in early August. The light was very good. Apparently, they had some over-cast days just prior to my trip - but, all was clear and bright blue skies. The Caprivi fires are just starting across in Namibia. But, that did not impact my trip in any way.

Met some great people and a lot of fun at both the camps.

Water levels..... Angola had heavy and late rains. The next push of the floods is happening at the moment and more surging water. The Eastern Section of the Kwando concession which has been out of access for the past two years is still flooded. Places like the old airstrip etc etc., for those who know the concession well - Half Way Pan, the Water Cut area etc etc., is unrecognizable. But, not too different from last year ........ just a bit more water. Twin Pools has a lot of water too. I flew over the Selinda concession on my way to Maun and gosh! ............. WATER WATER......

Plains game - I think i had decent viewing of Zebra, Wildebeest, Giraffe.

Buffalo herds were prevalent in the Lagoon area. One good size herd of about 1500. Maybe they are just coming out of the woodlands .... a bit shy they were.

Elephants - some decent herds. No where close to full potential due to all the water around from the flooded spillway and other channels of the Kwando and Linyanti systems. Best viewing was one day at lunch time when small groups of various families passed through the side of camp.

As my title suggests, this trip was truly madaboutcheetah, so when we were tired from following them tried our hand at some birding and was not to be disappointed. The Hottentot Teal was a new discovery to me. I'm sure they were around, just didn't look hard enough! Memorable sighting of 2 Batleur Eagles in good light. The ever present resident pair of Wattled Cranes at Kubu pan.
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Aug 22nd, 2010, 09:26 PM
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Some updates before I get to the cheetahs. The small Lebala pack of 4 were denning with 9 puppies. But, just prior to my trip the dogs had already quit denning and got mobile and so were not seen during my visit. Trust they are doing well wherever they may be. Last seen with 9 healthy puppies.

Lagoon Pack is 17 strong with 6 puppies at the den. They have become expert warthog hunters. I only went to the den twice. Location was not photogenic to begin with and the atmosphere was tense with a certain USA based digital photo safaris group.

Name of the photographer and applicable details, withheld from a public forum like this ...... but, if that's what photography is all about ...... i.e, putting yourself and your needs above the well being of the wildlife and being rude and obnoxious to fellow travellers and camp staff ....... PATHETIC!!! That's not the essence of Kwando and is far away from the Kwando experience that i associate with!!!
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Aug 22nd, 2010, 09:27 PM
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One last post about the dogs. On one of the hunts, they started the hunt by challenging the buffalo. They tried their hand at one of the calves. The interaction will all the dust was fascinating...... then they went off ..... trot, trot, trot, ........ they pulled up a young Hyena and kept nipping it's rear ..... they soon lost interest ....... trot, trot, trot ...... they picked up two Honey Badgers ....... again trot, trot, trot .......... they chased warthog and then eventually we lost them chasing kudus in the woodland and darkness was fast approaching and went back to camp!
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Aug 22nd, 2010, 09:29 PM
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As mentioned, this trip was mostly all about cheetah. Infact, the welcoming party at the Lebala airstrip was the coalition of 2 male cheetahs that traverse a wide area from South of Lebala camp to selinda and Duma Tau (Their pic is featured in the Wilderness home page). These guys, did spend a lot of time sleeping ....... saw some scent marking etc etc., but they weren't co-opearative with day time hunts for us. Yet, always good to see cheetah. This is the duo that put an end to the mighty blood brothers.

Saw another very skittish female cheetah up north in the Lagoon area around Zebra Pan. Now we know why the 3 males split up temporarily from time to time.

The stars of the trip for me and those that really made my entire safari memorable were the "boys of Lagoon" cheetah coalition. They walk hell of lot of distance and all the time. Scent marking Termite mounds, Camel Thorn Trees, Dead Wooden Logs etc etc., Just can't have enough pictures. You certainly need time and patience to track and keep pace with this trio.

When we went to Lagoon, we had to put in a lot of hard work to find them ...... once we did, we kept track of them. We were rewarded over the course of a few days when they made 3 kills ..... Male Impala, Tsessebe, Female impala. The Tsessebe kill is one of the highlights of all my trips. From a distance we could see the lead hunter go for the Tsessebe's back (much like a Lion would pounce on a buffalo). We had to race closer. Just in time for the other 2 to catch up and try and bring the animal down. It took about 5 minutes to silence the Tsessebe and over-power it. Amazing ....... Oh! and the feeding was in evening golden light. All of this happened on our transfer from Lagoon to Lebala. We found tracks on the cutline road ...... saw a big termite mound and saw some fresh scent marking and scat. Found them in no time ........ By the time we got south of John's Pan, the Lebala vehicles caught up and we all kept up through the day and the kill was made near Kubu Pan, not far from Lebala. I left just when the light went flat - but, the other vehicles who stayed at the sighting saw the Hyena come in and send the boys off the kill. All this, only after they ate enough and more. They really gave all the cars a hard time, when we had 15 rough minutes keeping up through the Kalahari Apple Leaf.

If this was not enough - they walked all the way to John's Pan and beyond the following day and were to kill a female impala shortly thereafter.

I'm guessing this coalition was already operating even during the end of the Blood brothers reign .... they just have a lot of territory inside the woodlands and have popped out into more open areas in the past two years. Phew! their territory is just so MASSIVE and they can give you the goose chase. Mighty mighty cats!!!

I know I've been very fortunate this trip with the cheetahs...... last October, these boys were very non co-operative. This time though, lucky I was! goes to say ...... nature is so unpredictable. One memorable sighting, was of the 3 boys together on a very high termite mound looking into our cameras and posing.
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Aug 22nd, 2010, 09:30 PM
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Leopard:

I saw a young female Leopard feeding one evening on a serval cat in the Twin Pools area.

Saw a very relaxed young male Leopard around the border post camp at Lagoon. Saw him twice - both times after the light went down on the way back to camp. So, no photos - called in the sighting and left ASAP.

Lions:

We saw some tracks for Male Lions. Didn't bother tracking them ....... Charles saw 2 Lionesses near the Baobab. But, we were already in camp by then and didn't bother returning to see them. So, no Lion photos this time being so cheetah obsessed.

No sable ....... Tried our hand at Eland with no luck. Hector and the others, saw a nice big herd, although apparently skiitish. Saw some Roan a few times, but, had to keep our distance as the cheetah boys were trying to have a go at them.

Some very good Wildebeest and Zebra herds in the Lagoon area. Saw a dazzle of 40 Zebra and a journey of 26 giraffe north of Zebra Pan (together).

Hyena found feeding on a Pangolin. Not kidding!!!

The cars with the dog hunt found a Pangolin alive when they sniffed it out. We were in camp at 4 30 that day after all day out with the hunting cheetahs. So, i tried my hand at photographing the Lagoon camp in golden light for memories. It is to be re-done later in the year.

All in all a fantastic trip for cheetahs. Fantastic and overall a lovely time.

Back to the reality of everyday. Yet, refreshed, recharged and my lungs full of fresh air .........

THE END
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Aug 23rd, 2010, 09:24 AM
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Thanks! Sounds like a fantastic trip and I was particularly interested to read about the cheetahs. I hope you will post a link to the photographs?
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Aug 24th, 2010, 06:44 PM
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Cheetahs and wild dogs all over! I have mixed emotions about the hyena feeding on the pangolin. Interesting nonetheless. It is great you can enjoy these "might cats" in their prime.
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Aug 24th, 2010, 09:11 PM
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Thanks. Shall start to work on photos from tomorrow. Will revert later when finished.
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Aug 24th, 2010, 09:23 PM
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Good report as always, many thanks.
Had to look up Tsessebe, good size antelope, challenge for cheetah I'd bet.

regards - tom
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Aug 24th, 2010, 09:29 PM
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Tom, Yes big antelope - kind of like a Topi in East Africa. I think the horns are shaped a bit different, though....
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Aug 24th, 2010, 09:43 PM
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Hi Hari

Pleased to read that you also enjoyed your recent gameviewing experience! No cheetah for me, but so many other great sightings I cannot complain! Always next time!

Kind regards

Kaye
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Aug 24th, 2010, 09:50 PM
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Hi Kaye,

Thanks ..... just saw your report too and saw that you had some fantastic Leopard and Lion sightings ...... True, I guess we can't see it all at once, so we'll just have to return.

Regards
Hari
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Aug 25th, 2010, 12:33 PM
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Hari,

Sounds as though you had a wonderful trip to your favorite area. Look forward to seeing your photos. I was dismayed to read about the bad behavior of the photo group. No excuse for anything like that.
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Aug 26th, 2010, 07:28 AM
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Thanks, CW.
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Aug 26th, 2010, 03:45 PM
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Wonderful report and yes - the hyena-pangolin excounter sure was extremely special.

I would love to go back to BOTs next year but will only have Feb/March as option.

Have you ever been during that time of year to Botswana?

Due to the enormous change in weather patterns it's hard to predict anything. But generally speaking: Would you encourage going early next year?

THX!

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Aug 26th, 2010, 07:15 PM
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Thanks, SV.

I have been to Bots in Feb/March. Yes, as you say the weather patterns are so unpredictable these days. For example., in 2009 we had a full week of intermittent rain and cloudy skies end of September into October (early rains) also supposedly, rains have also continued well into April or early May. Think back to 2009 and those unseasonal winter rains in June for a week?

To answer your question - Yes, I encourage visiting in those months. I was there in end Feb/March earlier this year. Some spectacular viewing at both Kwara and the CKGR on a mobile safari. The down side of the Green season is the off and on rain that makes it uncomfortable. My personal game viewing theory is, after the rains when the sun pops out the animals pop out too!!! Light for photography in the green season is very good and tracking is easy too (unless it rains and washes the tracks away).

Hari
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Aug 28th, 2010, 02:12 PM
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Excellent advise HariS!

Thank you very much!

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Aug 28th, 2010, 06:41 PM
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You have a great track record or should I say Kwando has a great track record.
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Aug 30th, 2010, 09:52 AM
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Hari that was one incredible sighting!! Tsessebe I find to be magnificent antelopes and are especially photogenic, but to have a cheetah kill with them in golden light must have been magical. I saw the photos on face book from the other guest and look forward to your photos. BTW I just booked Kwara for 8 nights at the end of Feb. I would have preferred Little Kwara,but it was full.
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