I'm back from my 2014 trip to Africa and reflecting on all the great things we saw! As usual we experienced things that we would never have imagined before we left.
Our first camp was in Nxai Pan in the Kalahari Desert. After dropping off our luggage we had 'high tea' and then went on our first game drive. We drove near where we had seen Cheetahs the year before. Our guide looked through his binoculars, exclaimed.. "Cheetahs!" and drove off at break neck speed! We got closer and saw a fully grown Cheetah chasing a small herd of Springbok... two smaller Cheetahs were trailing further behind. The mother Cheetah seemed to run effortlessly as the Springbok continued to put distance between them and the big cat. You could tell the instant that the Cheetah decided on which Springbok she was going to go after...... its like she suddenly turned on some afterburners. The burst of speed was tremendous and within a few seconds she had closed the gap and was behind a young Sprinkbok.. another second later and the Springbok was down. The Cheetah lay down next to her kill and waited for her cubs to catch up. They stood beside her looking down and all of the sudden the Springbok was up and running for its life. The cubs quickly caught up and pulled the small antelope down again. I had read earlier that young Cheetah don't instinctively know how to hunt and kill. We saw an example of this last year and later on this trip... A week old Cheetah was found 4 years ago in Zimbabwe by farmers, its siblings and mother had been killed by lions. Sylvester was taken to a farm and raised like a domestic cat, at 6 months the farmers decided that having a Cheetah as a housepet was not the best idea. So they found a home for him at a sanctuary near Victoria Falls... because he wasn't taught to hunt and kill by his mother, Sylvester now goes for his daily walks in the wild and chases animals but once he catches them he doesn't know what to do next. So our Cheetah family in Nxai Pan was going through a training session on how to hunt and kill its prey. We watched a fairly brutal display of nature for the next 40 minutes, where the Springbok would run away and get chased down by the young Cheetahs. Watching this was not for the faint of heart and it was very heart breaking to see the struggles of the young Springbok but nature can be brutal. I won't post the most graphic images on this blog.. if you want to see the entire story the photos can by found on my website under the Botswana 2014 gallery. This however is one of the milder photos of the Cheetah family after the Springbok took its last breath..
We also saw all of the regular animals you would expect to see at Nxai Pan including one very injured Honey Badger. The Honey Badger had a huge chunk taken out of his side. Sandi felt bad for the poor badger... however, having seen the video of the Honey Badger being bitten by a Cobra and sleeping off the venom, I guessed that the Honey Badger would probably be okay. We saw the tough little bugger a few days later and the horrible wound on his side was almost completely healed and he was vigorously digging deep holes to find his dinner!
We enjoyed seeing the White Desert Elephants and Giraffe drinking at the water hole,
Tiny little Steenbok... always a blur, running through deep grass.
The start of the Zebra Migration on our way out to the Baines Baobabs.
Huge herds of Sprinkbok, these two males in a sparring match.
The beautiful big Baobab trees sprinkled all over the Kalahari.
Our next camp was the newest camp in the Okavango Delta, Kadizora Camp. It had only been open since August and they were still experiencing some very minor growing pains, but the camp manager and staff were extremely accommodating and always eager to get things right.
Wildlife sightings were plentiful. Everything from Lions, Leopards, Sable Antelope, Kudu, a herd of thousands of Cape Buffalo, a Zebra with stripes AND spots, and my first ever Carmine Bee Eater and so much more!
Juvenile Carmine Bee Eater stealing a meal from its parent. Greater Kudu, my favourite Antelope. I love its spiral horns and the coat pattern that looks as though its given a ride to a flock of pigeons.
Lioness on the hunt.
Another Lioness and her mother had just killed a Cape Buffalo, this one left the kill to rest in nearby trees.
The older Lioness still gorging herself with food. Leopard high up in a tree.
Young Kudu running
Strange Zebra with darker coat and spots. The foal has the same spots as its mother.
Huge thunder clouds that brought storms at night
We thought that we saw a lot of wildlife at Kadizora but we saw even more at our next camp in the Linyanti region... Kwando Lebala Camp. We had a great driver (Roger) and fantastic tracker (Mr Mol). We were tracking lions in a heavily forested area when we ran out of open ground to continue driving forward on... there was nothing but small trees and big bushes in our way. Roger said.. "Oh oh.... oh well.... goodbye!" and proceeded to drive over the trees and bushes. My SUV would have left behind a trail of oil and parts... but the Toyota Land Cruiser just stormed through the bush. We didn't find the lions that day but the experience of bush whacking was well worth the effort. We did manage to find the lions the next day and also saw Wild Dogs, more Leopards, birds birds and more birds, Elephants bathing, Red Lechwe, Hippos, etc...
Our next camp wasn't actually a camp... instead we spent 3 nights on the Chobe River on the Ichobezi Safariboat. Our game drives were always on the water in a specially designed boat with swiveling chairs and gimbal mounts for our cameras. We saw so many more birds, including the tiny Malachite Kingfisher. Elephants came down to the Chobe to drink and bathe. I was able to photograph a herd of Impala in the best light ever and one night we almost choked from the smoke of farmers burning their fields of dried grasses in preparation of the coming rains, but the smoke made for a spectacular sunset.
We ended our trip in Victoria Falls, touring the falls and enjoying the Elephant camp and its resident Cheetah (Sylvester). It was an amazing trip with great friends.... as usual it was difficult to say goodbye to Africa but the next trip is in the planning stages. Its really true that Africa gets in your blood and will always be calling you back.