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July 24, 2018

Wild Dogs attack Lioness and cub in Moremi

Filed under: Camp Xakanaxa — Tags: , , , , — Desert & Delta Safaris @ 8:31 am

Our latest guest blog feature is by Walter Smith who visited Camp Xakanaxa where he and his family enjoyed the sighting of a lifetime involving a lioness, her cub and a pack of wild dogs.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit the Moremi Game Reserve with my family and we enjoyed our stay at Camp Xakanaxa immensely.

We took a drive to Paradise Pools as we had been told by the guides that they had seen a lioness with her cub in that area. We arrived there shortly after she had crossed a pool of water with her cub and in the process had caught and eaten a yellow billed duck. As we arrived there the mother and cub had taken rest up on an anthill and were drying themselves off in the late afternoon sun.

Paradise Pools in the Moremi Game Reserve

Paradise Pools in the Moremi Game Reserve

Paradise Pools is one of my favorite areas in the Moremi Game Reserve. Surrounded by rich riparian forest, there is a large open area with many dead trees which silhouette the skyline and add to the dramatic landscape. With the short grass, open space and availability of water, antelope like letchwe and impala like to congregate there as well.

This is paradise. The late golden afternoon sun not only adding to the atmosphere and serenity of the moment, but also being enjoyed by these two lions to dry themselves and add a bit of warmth as the evening was approaching.

lioness and cub at paradise pools in the Moremi Game Reserve

A lioness and her cub enjoying the afternoon light

We parked up about thirty meters from the anthill and were watching the mother and cub grooming themselves in the late afternoon sun, when out of nowhere a herd of impala scattered through the tree line about 400 meters away from us and at speed, came running across the open area. The impala were in short pursuit by some wild dogs. It was as if instant chaos had broken out into what was a serene and peaceful setting. One young female impala darted around an open pool and ran towards the back of our vehicle in the direction of the anthill where the two lions were resting. The lioness was immediately alert and, in a flash, pounced at the opportunity to catch the impala. The impala dodged back and ran directly towards us swerving at the last minute to avoid our vehicle. In a flash, with moist dirt spraying up in my face, I was within a meter of this lioness braking her charge to avoid running into the door of the vehicle. I recall the flash image of her claws, fully extended as it ripped up the damp earth and I looked straight into her eyes as she realised the vehicle parked there. This was incredible, she must have crossed a span of twenty-five meters in a split second. Needless to say, the immediate rush of adrenalin through my body right there and then was hugely exciting. We looked at each other for a second or two – it felt like eternity and the hair rising on the back of my neck was a sure indicator for me at the realisation of the immensity of this incredible predator’s deep natural instinct to hunt and kill.

She rounded the front of our vehicle, at this stage with the cub at her side and as she walked out into the open beyond the vehicle, we could hear the alarm barks and yelping of a dog. It started with one dog, and then another and another, and as we turned to look in the direction of the barks, it was evident that this was a formidable pack of dogs. There were twenty-two dogs in the pack and they did not like the fact that there was a lioness within their hunting area for that afternoon.

lion and wild dog interaction in the Moremi Game Reserve

The wild dogs approaching the lioness and her cub

Completely exposed now and crossing a large open area in an attempt to get her cub to the safety of a fever berry tree cluster, it was clear that this was not going to be an encounter which would just fizzle out without these two predator species properly greeting each other. With her cub hugging her flank, she arched her back, her chin pushed down on her chest, and her ears turned backwards as she listened intently to the barrage of war-cry yelps and barks from the advancing pack of dogs.  Getting her young one to a place of safety was intensely evident. We held our breath as the pack of dogs organized themselves on the advance towards these two lions. What was the serene and peaceful atmosphere of beautiful Paradise Pools area had, within a minute, turned into an energy radiating battle ground. The eternal battle of these predators, something which I believe is genetic in all of them, unfolded without build-up or ceremony. They were right into it.

battle between lion and wild dog in the Moremi Game Reserve

The energy is intense as the wild dogs close in on the young cub

Wild dogs are highly organized pack hunters, they have a very close bond between individuals within the pack. Whether they are on the hunt, or as in this case, at war, the one appears to be intensely aware of what the next one is doing. Together they dance within their organization as if it were an ancient form of art.

Lion and Wild Dod fight in the Moremi Game Reserve

Surrounding the lioness and her cub in an organised manoeuvre

The dogs, now arranging their attack, started approaching the lioness. The young cub at this stage confused and letting out small growls as the army of dogs barking and yelping became evidently louder. I was convinced that this would be the last that we would see of this cub as it was a sitting target. I knew that it would not take much to distract the lioness and within seconds the cub could or would be ripped to shreds by the gnashing teeth of the chaotic wild dog advance.

fighting wild dogs surround lioness in the Moremi Game Reserve

The dogs continue to distract the lioness as they target her cub

One dog took a gap and sunk its teeth into the hind leg of the now growling and distressed lioness. But this old campaigner  was not going to have any of it! She would not allow the nips and bites of the advancing dogs to go with tolerance. In a burst of dust, she pounced the dog. The dog was a young female and took the brunt of a swipe from the lioness’s large front pore on its right-hand flank. Claws extended, this cut into the side of the dog and pinned it down in a split second, the lioness managed to sink her teeth into the back of the dogs neck, just behind its ear.

Lioness attacks wild dog in the Moremi Game Reserve

The lioness lunged out at one of the wild dogs striking it on the back

This would have been the perfect time for the other dogs to have mauled the cub, but in defense of their pack member, they flashed right past it and commenced their attack on the lioness. Dust bellowing in the air and the incredible sounds of the lioness growls and dog yelps, the battle was in full rage. Dogs darted in from all angles, it was one lioness against twenty-two dogs and they were not there for diplomatic discussions. One from the left, one from the right, one from the front, one from the back, repeating itself time and again. She spun around in circles, growling loudly and doing her best to defend the darting attacks of the energetic pack of dogs. The growls from the lioness combined with the barks and yelps of the dogs, in the bellows of dust was a sight and sound that not many have experienced before.

Wild dog and lion interaction in the Moremi Game Reserve

In an attempt to assist their pack member, the dogs ignored the cub and attacked the lioness

The wild dogs would dart in, almost as if in rehearsed sequence, from all angles, take a bite at the rump, leg, flank of the lioness, and as quickly as they attacked, would retreat and reorganize themselves for the next barrage of attacks.

Wild dog pack attacking a lioness

Organised attacks on the lioness

I was in awe of the constant attack and certainly, it was very clear that this lioness was not going to go down without a complete and defiant battle to the end.

Lioness fighting with wild dogs in Botswana

The lioness standing her ground against the wild dog pack

Almost as quickly as this fight was triggered, it dissipated. The growls become less and the dancing organisation and advances of the dogs slowed down. As the dust cleared, the lioness sat down and the dogs, one or two of them letting out the occasional bark, slowly surrounding her, started opening up their tight war circle of advance, and retreated.

Intese predator interaction in Botswana's Moremi Game Reserve

The attack slows as the wild dogs begin to retreat

For a few minutes, it appeared that they were taking a rest, the circle of dogs fanned out and there silence once again set in. It appeared that this battle was nearing its end.

Game viewing in Paradise Pools in Botswana

The dogs back off singling the end of the intense battle

The serenity of Paradise Pools set in once more! The scene with this lioness lying down to rest, with some of the dogs also taking a break, with the beautiful backdrop of this incredible landscape was mesmerizing.

Lioness calling her cub in the Moremi Game Reserve

Lioness calling her cub after the battle with the wild dogs died down

After a short rest, the lioness got to her feet and climbed to the top of a nearby anthill. She started letting out a soft but gentle bellow as she called for her cub. The cub had scurried to safety of the bushes as soon as the dogs triggered their attack, but she had not seen it depart. She called out a few times urging it to answer or approach her.

Lioness and cub fend off wild dogs in the Moremi Game Reserve

The cub rejoins the lioness after hiding in the thickets during the fight

A rustle in the thicket to her right eluded to its response and the cub quickly scurried out to where she was standing. The dogs, still maintaining a close eye on its mother, did not flinch as the young one ran out to her. We sat and watched them, normality returning to what was a fierce battleground mere minutes ago. The two lions walked off towards the thicket.

Wild dogs at sunset in the Botswana's Moremi Game Reserve

The dogs maintained a close eye on the lioness and her cub

The sun now hugging the western horizon, provided the most incredible light through the trees and combined with the dust in the air from the recent skirmish, set the perfect scene as the last of the dogs observed the lions moving off.

Lioness and her cub at sunset in the Moremi Game Reserve

The lioness with her cub in the safety of the nearby thickets

Reunited, and the dogs having moved off, the lioness and cub reassured each other in a display of greetings and gentle growls.

Leopard at Paradise Pools in the Moremi Game Reserve

A leopard observing the battle from above

With the action completed and the afternoon taking its rest, we started heading back to Camp Xakanaxa. This had to be one of the most intense and action packed wildlife experiences I have ever encountered. I was thinking to myself what could be better. As we drove off the open area towards the tree line, I saw it – perched upon a branch, obviously observing the chaos of the past afternoon from its elevation, sat a leopard.

Thank you to Walter for sharing your photos and stories of this exceptional wildlife encounter. The Moremi Game Reserve is renowned its prolific wildlife and this is an excellent example of what the region has to offer. 

For more information visit the Moremi Game Reserve on our website. Desert & Delta Safaris has two camps in the Moremi Game Reserve, for more information on these camps visit Camp Xakanaxa and Camp Moremi

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April 25, 2018

Leopardess of Moremi’s Dead Tree Island

Filed under: Camp Xakanaxa — Tags: , , — Desert & Delta Safaris @ 9:36 am

This month’s blog features Walter Smith, one of our directors and long standing members of the Desert & Delta Safaris family. In this post Walter share’s an incredible sighting in the Moremi Game Reserve and the incredible story of a young leopardess who he’s become rather fond of over the years. 

The one significant thing about the Moremi Game Reserve for me over the years are the incredible Leopard sightings which I have had. I have been working for Desert & Delta Safaris for over ten years and Moremi never seizes to amaze me.

In particular, on my many visits to the area, I have often gone in search of a particular young leopardess which I have known and followed since she was a small cub. She was born within an area of the Xakanaxa region of the Moremi Game Reserve which we know as Veronica’s Island. Her mother was resident within that area and known to the guides as a very successful and highly territorial leopardess of Veronica’s Island.

When this young female was about a year old, the mother’s territory became too small for the two of them. Her mother was courting a large male leopard of the area which created extra tension between them. Her mother soon became pregnant again and when she gave birth to a young male cub, this young female had to move on. She was often sighted in the Jessie’s Pools area and then started ranging through the area known as old airstrip and weather station. This range extended even further until she set up her own territory in the Paradise Pools area in early 2015.

This young leopardess was and still is a formidable huntress. I recall watching her hunt with complete stealth and precision on francolin when she was still a young cub and one of my highlights was watching her take down a young female impala, from her perch on an overhanging sausage tree branch near Jessies pools when she was not even a year old.

She is beautiful and I have always observed her with admiration.

In early April 2015, I spent a few days at Camp Moremi and we experienced some heavy rain at that time.

I took a drive to Paradise Pools, one of my favourite areas in the Xakanaxa region of the Moremi Game Reserve. In the middle of a heavy downpour we stopped to look at a small group of male impala when, as if from nowhere she came out from underneath a small croton bush, right next to the vehicle. She was saturated from the rain, but not fazed by our presence at all. She immediately fixated on the impala and started stalking them with incredible stealth. This was a very clever move on her behalf as the noise of the rain and the fact that the air would not carry her smell negated their senses in detecting her. Like a flash she took off after one of them, but the big male impala noticed her advance and just managed to escape her attack. She turned around and walked back to where we were parked and just sat there waiting out the cloudburst. As the rain dissipated, she shrug off the water from her coat and walked over to a nearby tree where she took up her rest and surveyed the beautiful Paradise Pools area which she now owned as her territory.

Leopardess in the Moremi Game Reserve in 2015

Photo credits: Walter Smith (2015)

The following morning we headed back to this area and found her about three hundred meters away from where we had left her that previous evening. She was lying on a branch of a dead leadwood tree and enjoying the morning sunlight as it broke through the forest vegetation around her. The heavy dark rain clouds had dissipated to some extent and the yellow morning light was breaking through the clouds. She was staring intently to the north and then sat up and started calling in that direction. The rasp of the leopard’s call was incredible, and immediately the birds and squirrels in the area began their alarm calls. She descended from the tree and walked over to a fallen tree trunk where she was clearly scent marking. We followed her for about half a kilometre until we could hear the reply rough rasping call from what we thought was another leopard. We drove to an open area and across a small floodplain, headed in her direction, was a big male leopard, also scent marking as he ambled in her direction. They both disappeared into the bush and we lost sight of them.

leopard sighting in the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana

Photo credits: Walter Smith (2015)

This past month (April 2018), I was back in the Xakanaxa area and we were headed back to Paradise Pools to go and assist with the setup of a sundowner surprise for our guests staying at Camp Xakanaxa. Earlier that morning, the guides from Camp Xakanaxa had reported that they had sighted a leopard with two mid-sized cubs. On our way we searched for the possibility of a sighting. To our delight, there she was – this very same Leopardess and now the mother of two beautiful and healthy cubs – one male and one female. She had killed an impala and had placed it in a tree to secure their meal from potential hyenas and other predators. As beautiful as ever and now fully grown, she displayed her cubs for us.

Leopard and cub sighted in the Moremi Game Reserve with Camp Xakanaxa

Photo Credits: Walter Smith (2018)

I cannot wait to get back there to look for and photograph more of this lovely leopard and her cubs.

Thanks to Walter for sharing these exceptional photos with us. Vsit the Moremi Game Reserve and Camp Xakanaxa pages on our website for more insight into what this region has to offer as one of Botswana’s prime wildlife destinations. 

 

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September 6, 2017

August Was Cheetah Month In The Moremi Game Reserve

Filed under: Camp Moremi,Camp Xakanaxa — Desert & Delta Safaris @ 9:52 am

The month of August is traditionally an exceptional month for wildlife sightings with the dry season in full swing. From the concentration of zebra along the banks of the Boteti River near Leroo La Tau to the massive herds of elephant in the Savute and Chobe Riverfront regions of the Chobe National Park.

Amongst all the wonderful sightings we’ve enjoyed, what’s stood out most this month is the number cheetah encounters we have had in the Moremi Game Reserve. Guests staying at Camp Xakanaxa and Camp Moremi have had the good fortune of sighting these speedsters on several occasions throughout the month.

A cheetah searching for prey in the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana

Taking advantage of the height of the termite mound to search for prey. Photo by Kapano @ Camp Moremi

A pair of cheetahs in the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana

An elegant dismount from the termite mound after locating their prey. Photo by Kapano @ Camp Moremi

The Moremi Game Reserve is undoubtedly one of the top game viewing destinations in Botswana with its diverse landscapes offering a haven for a wide variety of wildlife inhabitants. Cheetahs prefer open un-wooden areas as they rely on speed to hunt their prey which is why they are often seen in the open grasslands or on the edge of the deeper wooded regions of the Moremi Game Reserve. They are however shy in nature which makes them tough to find, especially with the strong presence of other predators in the area such as lion which will kill the cheetah to eliminate competition should the chance arise.

Searching for cheetah in the Moremi Game Reserve

One of the coalition members on the lookout. Photo by Grass @ Camp Moremi

Cheetah seen from Camp Moremi in the Moremi Game Reserve

A special sighting of one of the coalition members. Photo by Lets from Camp Moremi

This month it was the grasslands near Third Bridge and First Bridge which proved a favourite attracting several new cheetah inhabitants never seen before in this region of the reserve. A coalition of four cheetahs and a separate pair of females were seen on several occasions. Their hunting efforts have been very successful and these spotted predators seem to be enjoying their new home.

Cheetah in Botswana's Moremi Game Reserve

A lone male on the lookout. Photo by Stuart

Cheetah seen from Camp Xakanaxa in the Moremi Game Reserve

Making his way across the open grassland. Photo by Stuart

Morning game drives from Camp Moremi and Camp Xakanaxa heading toward Third Bridge have been very fruitful for our guides and guests as they have enjoyed exceptional sightings of these cheetahs on several kills as well as just lounging around for the camera. With spring now in full swing, we looking forward to more updates from our guides on what they are seeing in the Moremi Game Reserve.

Additional Reading:

More on the Moremi Game Reserve

Discover Camp Moremi 

Discover Camp Xakanaxa

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November 17, 2016

Meet Banda From Camp Xakanaxa

Filed under: Camp Xakanaxa — Desert & Delta Safaris @ 8:46 am

Today we’re taking the opportunity to introduce you to Banda from Camp Xakanaxa. Banda is one of our long-standing guides having worked with Desert & Delta Safaris for over 10 years. His passion for Botswana and the countries wilderness areas is evident in the way he enthusiastically shares his knowledge with each and every one of the guest who joins him on safari from Camp Xakanaxa.

We asked Banda a few questions about himself and his career as a guide;

 

Where are you from and how did you get into guiding?  

I come from a small village called khwai, which is found on the edge of the famous Moremi Game Reserve. With its close proximity to the Moremi Game Reserve, my village receives a lot of visitors as they enter and exit the park, which exposed me to the industry from a very young age. My father also worked as a guide in one of the nearby safari lodges. His stories from working as a guide is what inspired me to become a guide and follow in his footsteps.

 

What do you love most about guiding? 

For me, being a guide is like doing a cultural exchange program. Meeting people from all over the world with different cultures and interests gives you an idea of what’s going on around the world. I work in a remote part of Botswana but am fortunate to have the opportunity to meet new people from all over the world every single day.

What I also love about being a guide is that I am constantly learning. As a guide, our job is to share our knowledge with our guests but the natural wilderness is ever changing and I learn something new every time I head out on a game drive.

On safari with Banda from Camp Xakanaxa

Banda ready for his afternoon game drive

How long have you been guiding for? 

I have been a guide in Botswana for over 10 years now. I started my career with Desert & Delta Safaris in 2005 when I was placed at Camp Okavango for my internship. The company employed me as a full-time guide in January 2006 where I continued at Camp Okavango. In 2009 I moved to Camp Moremi in the Moremi Game Reserve where I guided for approximately five years before moving across to Camp Xakanaxa in January 2015 where I am currently based.

 

What’s your most memorable experience as a guide?

The most memorable experience as a guide with Desert & Delta Safaris was watching a leopard jumping from the tree, from a height of about 6 meters to kill an impala that was grazing under the tree. It was my first time to witness a kill which is why it remains so firm in my memory as a favourite sighting.

Thanks to Banda for taking the time to share his passion for guiding with us. Here is a collection of Banda’s favourite photo memories from his time as a guide with us:

Leopard sighting by Banda in the Moremi Game Reserve

A young leopard resting in a tree in the Moremi Game Reserve

Fish Eagle sighting in the Okavango Delta with Banda from Camp Xakanaxa

A Fish Eagle taking off in the Okavango Delta

Elephant in the Moremi Game Reserve with Banda from Camp Xakanaxa

Elephant enjoying a drink near the Xakanaxa Lagoon in the Moremi Game Reserve

A special lion sighting in the Moremi Game Reserve with Banda from Camp Xakanaxa

A special lion sighting in the Moremi Game Reserve

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May 16, 2016

Fish Eagle on the Xakanaxa Lagoon

Filed under: Camp Xakanaxa — Tags: , , , — Banda @ 7:57 am

What I love about Camp Xakanaxa is its unique location close the the Xakanaxa Lagoon which allows us to daily game drives as well as river cruises across the lagoon and through some of the Okavango Delta’s many channels. This offers our guests the chance to enjoy the exceptional game viewing of the Moremi Game Reserve but also get a taste of the beauty of the Okavango Delta by boat.

Exploring the Okavango Delta by boat with Camp Xakanaxa from Desert & Delta Safaris

Exploring the Okavango Delta by boat

On a recent morning game drive my guests and I enjoyed exceptional sightings of both lion and leopard as well as excellent general game, making it a very successful morning out on the vehicle.

With such a successful morning I decided to offer my guests an afternoon river cruise for a chance to experience the delta as it was their last afternoon with us. A boat cruise along the xakanaxa lagoon is an incredible experience offering guests the chance to relax and take in the beauty of the Moremi and Okavango Delta landscapes. It is also a good opportunity to search for birds and the smaller creatures that inhabit the delta system.

While the afternoon river cruises are often more relaxed there are still plenty of opportunities for photography. Shortly after we crossed the Xakanaxa lagoon we came across a fish eagle standing on a small clump of reeds in the middle of the channel. We approached slowly with our cameras at the ready for when it took off. With a full stretch of its wings the fish eagle took off from its resting point and flew across the front of the boat allowing us to capture several photos as it flew off to a nearby tree.

Fish Eagle with Banda at Camp Xakanaxa

We found the fish eagle resting in the middle of the channel

Fish eagle take off in the Okavango Delta from Camp Xakanaxa

As we drifted closer the fish eagle took off

Fish eagle in flight in the Okavango Delta from Camp Xakanaxa

In full flight flying across the front of our boat

A river cruise from Camp Xakanaxa is an excellent way to end a safari in the Moremi Game Reserve and one never knows what you may find while out exploring the many channels of the Okavango Delta.

For more information on Camp Xakanaxa and the activities on offer please visit the Camp Camp Xakanaxa page.

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January 19, 2016

Leopard surprise at Paradise Pools

Filed under: Camp Xakanaxa — Tags: , — Banda @ 11:26 am

When we ask our guests what animal they want to see, the most popular answer is almost always the leopard. With their secretive nature and spotted camouflage they are extremely difficult to find.

Finding a leopard takes exceptional guiding skills in tracking and patients. We need to have a good understanding of leopard behaviour so we can pre-empt their next move for the best possible sighting.

But sometimes, its as easy as stopping to wait for a dust storm to clear. As I found out on a recent morning drive.

While out on our morning safari at Paradise Pools I noticed that the wind had suddenly picked up, creating a small dust storm. Trying to avoid the dust I turned down wind and stopped the vehicle so we could wait for the dust to settle.

 

Leopard sighted in the Moremi Game Reserve with Camp Xakanaxa

A young leopard at the base of a mopane tree

While waiting for this bad weather to pass I heard the distinct alarm call of a red lechwe came out from a nearby bush in front of us. Not sure why the lechwe were alarm calling we slowly edged closer to see what we could find. To my surprise, there was a young leopard peacefully resting beneath a large mopane tree, not far from where the lechwe were calling. Leopard are shy in nature and I wasn’t sure how she would react to our presence so we kept our distance and took a few photographs of her curiously looking around from the base of the tree.

Young leopard in the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana

Posing on the lower branch for us

Suddenly, she stood up and jumped into one of the lower branches of the tree. From there she gracefully leapt to a higher branch demonstrating her exceptional agility and power. Once settled on the branch she posed beautifully for us to take more photos. I believe she was using the high branches of this tree to search for nearby prey.”

Leopard leaping into a tree in the Moremi Game Reserve

Leaping into the higher branch of the tree

Leopard in a tree in the Moremi Game Reserve

Almost into the higher branch

Leopard in the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana with Camp Xakanaxa

Searching for prey from her elevated position

A memorable sighting for Banda and his guests. Well done to Banda for capturing the stunning photographs. Sometimes it takes a bit of luck and being in the right place at the right time to enjoy special sightings like this one. Paradise Pools offers exceptional game viewing and one of our favourite places for a morning or afternoon out.

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