Chitabe In Pictures

At Chitabe camp in the Okavango Delta of Botswana we saw so much wonderful wildlife it’s hard to pick only a few photographs to post. There was a huge diversity of animals and birds and it seemed that new and exciting things were around every corner. One morning we came to a water hole where quite a few marabou storks had gathered along with egrets, white pelicans, herons, and other water loving fowl. There was a hippopotamus carcass nearby which probably accounted for the storks as they are scavengers. We also saw many living hippos at the water holes.

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Marabou stork

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It was the beginning of baby season in the bush and we saw beautiful wee creatures wobbling around after their mamas. In fact, we happened upon a wildebeest with her newborn calf mere seconds after she had given birth. We watched for about ten minutes as the baby struggled to stand up and take its first steps. That’s all the time it took before they were making their way back to the herd.

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Piglets!

Piglets!

The whiskers on this young warthog are to fool predators into thinking he has big tusks!

The whiskers on this young warthog are to fool predators into thinking he has big tusks!

Tsessebes with youngsters

Tsessebes with youngsters

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Giraffes get darker as they age. This young one is quite light colored.

Giraffes get darker as they age. This young one is quite light colored.

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On the way back to camp one morning we heard a ruckus in the bushes next to the road. When we went to investigate it turned out there was a python moving about under a tree. A very brave dove was keeping an eye on things! When there is a snake nearby, birds and squirrels will make a lot of noise to let the others (and the snake) know it’s been spotted.

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Another morning we spent some time trying to find some lions that had been spotted in a certain area. Having been unsuccessful in finding them and having nearly gotten stuck in the mud in the process, we were headed back to camp for breakfast when we just happened upon two leopards lying in the shade on a termite mound by the side of the road. How convenient! It was a mother and her son. They were panting from the heat and posed very obligingly for us.

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We also saw more wild dogs at Chitabe. On the first occasion they were relaxing in the evening before rousing themselves and setting off on a hunt.

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Play time

Play time

Setting off into the bush

Setting off into the bush

The second time we saw them they had just gone for a cooling dunk in the mud at a waterhole and were settling in for a late morning nap. They looked very strange with the mud plastered over parts of their bodies!

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There were many beautiful birds and we were able to see many of them enough times to start to learn their names.

Lilac breasted roller

Lilac breasted roller

One of my favorite birds

One of my favorite birds. So colorful!

Ground hornbills

Ground hornbills

Grey louries, also called the go away bird because it makes a sound like someone saying "Go Away!"

Grey Go-Away-Birds so called because they make a sound like someone saying “Go Away!”

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Crested barbet

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Hammerkop

Hammerkop

African fish eagle

African fish eagle

Here are some pictures of our first Baobab tree. They are enormous, but not immune to the damage that elephants can do.

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We also saw more leopards including a female lounging in a tree who decided to come down, and a young male cub also in a tree who was hanging out waiting for his family to come back.

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When I first spotted this young guy he was watching us from the crook of a tree.

When I first spotted this young guy he was watching us from the crook of a tree.

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There were plenty of cape buffalo as well as elephants to provide us with exciting encounters.

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I will leave you here with the spectacular sunrise we saw one morning. Next up will be lions and traveling to our next camp.

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Birds of Eden

Next up for our day was a trip to Birds of Eden which had also been recommended by Adrienne and Bernie. Along the way we stopped at Thyme and Again, a farm stall and café, and enjoyed a late lunch. The shop had dried fruits and nuts, jams, sauces, produce and a butchery, as well as baked goods. The café was a nice homemade sort of affair. I ordered an ice coffee since I saw it on the menu and thought a pick-me-up would be good. To my surprise, what I got was more akin to a coffee milkshake or frappe with ice cream in it! Live and learn, but it was still delicious.

Birds of Eden turned out to be a fabulous choice as we really enjoyed seeing so many spectacular birds. It is the largest enclosed aviary in the world. It was indeed very large and enclosed with only netting. Everywhere we looked we spotted colorful birds of all kinds, most of whom are rescues. There was a meandering boardwalk, a stream, and ponds. We really enjoyed sitting on a bench by one of the ponds toward the end of the day where it seemed all the birds came to us. The sounds of the bird calls were loud and continuous so you really felt you were in the jungle! I think we were the last to leave at closing time. Here is a selection of the many photos I took.

Knysna Lourie

Flying foxes - fruit bats?

Red Ibis

A Weaver at his nest

On the way out

After our very full day, we decided to skip dinner when we got back to the B & B and just had a snack from our own food and an early evening.

 

 

Ngala Private Game Reserve

The Ngala reserve is a little different than Londolozi. Ngala is a private reserve, but the majority of the territory they explore on game drives consists of land in the Kruger National Park on which they have exclusive traversing rights. It's rather a large area, so on each drive we started out by driving down the length of the private reserve and out into the park portion. Another difference is that there are fewer roads and tracks, so it becomes harder to track the animals. Kruger maintains the roads but doesn't want them making new ones. The area also has less water than Londolozi. The Timbavati river only runs seasonally through the reserve. There are several dams that have created ponds so the animals have water sources, which also attracts and keeps the animals in the area. However, in general, it seemed drier.

Our first evening we saw buffalo, zebra, and another leopard. Jimmy spotted her by the side of the road in the full dark and we followed her into the bush by spotlight and watched her scent-marking her territory. It was lovely to see zebra as we hadn't seen any yet. And there were lots of buffalo– bachelor herds of older bulls and large herds of cows and calves. Ngala has wonderful birds as well and we saw many including the Bateleur, African Fish-eagle, Double-banded Sandgrouse, Magpie Shrike, African Bee-eater, and the Red-crested Korhaan a bird that does a dramatic display of falling from the sky and pulling out of its “death spiral” at the last minute with a swoop. I guess this behavior is supposed to impress the ladies! We also saw Marula trees, the fruit of which is used to make a liqueur similar to Baily's. We had this in our coffee at our morning tea and snack stop on game drives. Quite yummy!

Bernard, though young, turned out to be a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable ranger. We really enjoyed exchanging stories and conversing over the 4 nights and 8 game drives we spent there. He hails from Pretoria, South Africa and clearly has an immense love and respect for the bush. He is particularly good at birding and so we enjoyed learning about a lot of the birds in the area. Jimmy, our tracker, was also very talented. He has been tracking for eleven years and has a keen eye and a quiet way. He spotted an African Wild Cat in the dark one evening and a Spotted Eagle-owl as well. This cat is the one to whom most house cats are likely the most closely related. It looks a lot like a slightly large house cat and is not often seen. Jimmy and Bernard together went off in the bush once to track down a male lion and were successful. We felt very fortunate to have such a fantastic team guiding us on safari, but more than that, we really enjoyed their company.

Another thing we were fortunate in is that we ended up having a virtually private safari vehicle for most of the time. This was the luck of the draw really. The Germans we met the first night had some unfortunate medical complications which took them away, and the German couple who joined us the following evening were leaving in the morning. We had one other delightful companion on one evening drive, a man named Devern, also from Pretoria. So for 5 out of 8 game drives we had the vehicle to ourselves. In fact, on one morning, I skipped the game drive because I wasn't feeling well, so Michael had a private tour all by himself! This is not the norm and we saw other vehicles with 6 and even 7 people. That isn't too bad, but what a treat it was to have such flexibility and a relaxed atmosphere with just us and our Ranger/Tracker team.

Here are some photos of the wonderful things we saw at Ngala including a pride of lions with cubs, a lovely leopard siting in a tree, a large male rhino, hippos, and beautiful African sunsets. There were so many things we saw that I can't recount them all. I think we saw 5 different leopards while we were there, but there were also lots of impala, zebra, birds, buffalo and so many other things.

Wildebeest

 

 

Leopard orchid - an epiphyte

Bernard and Jimmy setting up sundownders

 

 

Londolozi Finale

Our last morning at Londolozi we had one more game drive in which we saw more lions. This time it was the Tsalala pride with 3 lionesses and 4 cubs. As expected, they were enjoying a morning nap.

Sacked out

Scanning the horizon

We also saw a Jackal and an African Fish eagle that morning, and another Lilac-breasted roller.

Part of my African Bums collection

African Fish-Eagle

Lila-breasted roller

To finish our drive Kate parked the truck and led us on a walking safari back to camp. It was a beautiful morning with the Drakensberg mountains in the distance and it was really fun to get a totally different view of things. We saw a Stiletto snake crawling into a termite mound and marveled at all the details you don't see as well from a vehicle.

Stiletto snake - quite toxic!

Drakensberg mountains

 

Beauty and the Beast

Later that day on the evening game drive we saw a Goliath heron. He was magnificent! We thought perhaps he was injured because when he started to walk, he clearly had one leg that seemed bent backward the wrong way and walked with a funny gate. However, Life was of the opinion that it was a birth defect and not an injury. This seemed likely as otherwise he seemed quite healthy and obviously had been capable of feeding himself thus far.

Goliath heron

Further on we had a wonderful encounter with not one, but two leopards. The first was a young male who was resting underneath a great tree. After a bit he got up and moved off to another spot close by.

While moving around in that direction for a better view, we discovered there was another leopard very close by. It was an adult female. Usually leopards do not hang out together. Kate speculated as to whether perhaps the female was the young male's mother, but we weren't sure if they were aware of each other's presence. This created some excitement about a possible interaction between the two. The female was lying in the burn area of a recent fire and so was obligingly easy to photograph and view. She treated us to some typical cat behavior. What a magnificent animal!

The female leopard

Scratch

Stretch

Having a drink

After her stretching, she got up and moved off toward where we knew the young male was lying. We high tailed it around to the other side to get a better view and watched as the male became aware of the other's presence and moved down to join her. They were indeed mother and son. They also had a kill hidden in the bushes in a little gully. Probably it had been an impala. At any rate, the mother began to feed and the son lounged nearby waiting his turn. By this time the light was beginning to fade so we watched for a while and then moved off to enjoy a sundowner with the first semblance of a sunset we'd had yet.

Lounging

Mom has an Impala snack. Yum!

 

Lions!

The remainder of our time at Londolozi continued to awe and amaze. We were treated to sightings of two lion prides, two more leopards, countless antelope of varying types, rhino, hippo, buffalo, giraffe, birds galore and even some reptiles. The food and service were equally amazing. I will really miss those breakfasts! I particularly enjoyed the huge variety of birds. It was such a luxury to have a guide to point them out, describe their habits, and one who knew all the names and calls so well. Some of my favorites include the Lilac-breasted roller, the Goliath heron– largest in the world, and the various eagles. After the storms of the night before, the bush seemed refreshed, clean, and sparkly. It really is beautiful to be out just after sunrise to see everything just waking up. And a little bit of rain immediately makes everything spring to life. As the summer rains are about to start up in earnest, soon the bush will be lush and green with new growth everywhere. The weather improved and we had some sunshine mixed with clouds. In general it has been much cooler here than I expected. It's preferable to being scorching hot, but I never expected to be chilly! Still, the clothing I brought seems to have worked out just fine.

Kate and Life in the morning- see where he sits?

Wildebeest

Red-billed Hornbill

Marshall eagle

Life

The first lions we saw were from the Sparta pride. Quite a lot of time was spent tracking them down, narrowing down their location by searching for tracks along the roads, and eventually searching on foot in the bush. We knew they were close by but still hadn't found them when, along came a Land Rover full of Tracker trainees. The Tracker training program at Londolozi is quite well known and very comprehensive. It is led by a man named Rennius about whom we'd heard from Kate. She had called in The A-Team as they called themselves! Life went off with them into the bush and we drove off to find a suitable spot for tea and rusks. Not three minutes down the road we got the call the lions had been found! Life and Kate had tracked them to right under our noses it seemed. We turned around and raced back, bid adieu to the A-Team, and drove into the bush to see our first lions. We found 4 or 5 lionesses and one young male. You could see his mane was not fully developed but he looked distinctly different from the females. They were doing what lions do most of the time– lying around napping. It was a bit hard to photograph them through the tall grass but you get the idea.

The young male

 

 

On the Trail of the Elusive Leopard – part 4

After getting our fill we left the leopard in peace and moved off through the bush to find a suitable spot to have a cup of tea or coffee. On the way through the bush we saw a Verreaux's Giant Eagle-Owl sitting in a tree. It had bright pink eyelids which you could see when it blinked! The light was very dim so my picture is not the best but you can see the pink eyelids.

These game drives are quite civilized as they always stop along the way to offer refreshment. Out comes a small table and table cloth, cups, drinks, and snacks. In the morning it's tea or coffee or hot chocolate with cookies or rusks. Rusks are a sort of homemade thick granola bar–very tasty!

The rest of our game drive that morning brought more birds such as the African Dipper, and the Violet-backed Starling. We also had a wonderful time observing some giraffes and saw warthogs and more rhino. By the time we got back to the lodge for breakfast it was at least 10 o'clock. Breakfast was phenomenal followed by a bit of rest and then a late light lunch. Pretty soon we were gathering back for tea and to get ready for the evening game drive. It's a grueling pace of sleep, eat, game drive, eat, nap, eat, rest, eat, game drive, eat, sleep. In the next post I'll give an account of the unexpected events on our very exciting late afternoon game drive, so stay tuned.

 

 

 

Violet-backed Starling