Nancy Vandermey, Author
South Africa/Botswana Trip part 6 Moremi, Khwai, Savuti - 8-16 November
A rainbow accompanied us on the 2 hour drive to Maun. We had arranged an 8 am meeting at the Maun Cash Build with Masson Safaris. Sallie Masson then led us to their home, where we met our team for the next 8 days: guide Nick Langton, cook Sam, and his helper/girlfriend Maritzie. We all headed out with a trailer full of gear, and an ice box full of drinks, up the tar-then-dirt road from Maun to Moremi Reserve. We saw zebra before even reaching South Gate, where we enjoyed lunch. Kudu were the next sighting, and when we came out by the water near Xini Lagoon I saw two new antelope for the first time, tssesebe (some with young) and red lechwe. There were also several sets of ground hornbill, in addition to the yellow, red, and gray-billed hornbills we had grown used to seeing everywhere. Hippo peeked up from every deep pool, sacred ibis and various other waterbirds abounded. Wildebeest had also given birth. Nick mentioned what a beautiful campsite Xini was, but we drove on to Bodumatau (Hatab 13), which is when Sam told Nick to check his paperwork - we WERE at Xini, Hatab 14. We took a different route back, and what timing - a female lion was walking down the road. We drove past, dropped off the trailer and Sam and Maritzie, and went back to watch the lioness get watched by giraffe, stalk warthog and impala, settle on a termite mound, walk past our camp, call for other lions, hear a reply, and then head BACK past camp to meet up with her friend. Some photos were taken while I'm standing in our campsite (the rest are from the vehicle).
The tents were quite comfortable, bush shower nearby, everything provided. This was our kind of safari, with a fridge full of cold beers and cider always on hand. Nick stuck to his "old man" beer (St Louis) while Eric had a supply of Lion Lager and I of course drank Savannah Cider. Sam is an incredible bush cook, we had some great dinners during this portion of the trip. He can make anything in an iron pot over a fire. The view from this camp was great, and we were visited by a lot of game. In the morning we headed north, seeing jackal, secretary bird, wooly neck stork, and these neat red flowers. In the open areas near there we found this python, which we followed so I could get some nice close-ups. Campers at 3rd bridge told us about 2 lionesses who had just killed a buffalo near 4th bridge. On the way we found this large lizard. The vultures were waiting for the lions to start lunch - the lions were still panting from the exertion of the kill and hadn't started eating yet. It was hot, so we returned to camp for a break. In the afternoon we saw black egret and their unique fishing style of hooding, reedbuck, squacco heron, crocodile, found a secretary bird nest, and when a bush hissed at us, flushed out a honey badger. We drove to a former campsite - the hippos in the lagoon were NOT used to people anymore! One impala baby was seen, distantly. After another great dinner, we slept till 2 am, when the sound of lions fighting over a kill woke the camp. Followed by alarm calls from the local antelope and birds. Followed by hippos getting in a fight. Followed by hyenas cackling. Followed by lions calling to each other...no more sleep that night for us! In the morning we found the remnants of the kill, while one lioness chased off a hyena. One magnificent male lion came out of the bush and walked over to 2 females, before posing in the early morning sun. There were at least 8 lions around, and possibly 2 kills.
We had a mokoro ride scheduled that morning, so off we went for the long drive to Mboma station. Kudu and giraffe along the way posed. The ride was hot, the waterlilies pretty, a few birds and butterflies entertained us. Then Eric tried poling - good thing he didn't try to go far! On the way back to camp we saw wattled crane, and checked on the buffalo carcass - someone had been busy overnight, it was pretty much finished. On returning to camp Sam informed us all the lions had walked by right in front of camp - would have been a good day to just hang out there. In the afternoon we saw more mongeese and returned to the secretary bird nest to get photos of them flying.
On Sunday morning it was packing day, to move to Khwai; on the way Sam spotted two cheetah, one with a collar. We took the straight road from South to North Gate, very boring mopani forest, very loud with cicadas! At least there were no mopani flies here. The bridge over the river Khwai is interesting, the logs move as you drive over them. The Khwai river valley is beautiful, with tons of game and water birds. There was a convention of Marabou stork going on, they look like undertakers. We also saw open-bill stork and white face ducks, francolin, wooly neck stork, egrets, black headed night heron, green back heron, pied kingfisher, african darter, cormorants, fish eagles, bateleur eagles, black and yellowbill kites, tawny eagles, coppery tailed coucal, and Meyer's parrots. Many hippos and crocodiles played in the river, while a python hung out in a leadwood tree. In addition to waterbuck and tssesebe, we saw more impala babies. The sign at the airstrip amused us, as did seeing elephant nearby. Our campsite was under a camelthorn tree. In the afternoon, we saw more lions, 2 females with 2 cubs of different ages, and another gorgeous sunset. Dinner was a yummy mutton stew, and then we went out for a night drive. We had two good sightings of African wildcat (a good sighting despite my crummy picture), and also saw many springhare, crocodiles, a bushbaby in a tree, and the same lions again - but this time we also saw two male lions.
On the morning game drive, we saw many more birds(pale chanting goshawk) and hippos, lilies, the usual antelope (impala, waterbuck, red lechwe, and tssesbe), plus jackal, elephant, and buffalo. The afternoon drive was similar, with some sleeping lions added. The night drive brought genet, a giant eagle owl, and a grass owl. While Sam and Maritzie packed camp in the morning, we found more lions walking in the mopani. Then we drove off to the Mababe Gate into Savuti. The drive along the river brought more elephant and kudu and the other usual suspects, until we hit the mopani forest, which was quiet. When we reached the Mababe Depression sightings picked up again. Giraffe, wildebeest, many zebra, warthogs, ostrich, jackal, plus elephant in many places. At the main waterhole male elephant ruled the day. Camp was set up quickly, but it was quite hot. We set out late and decided to just sit and drink by the waterhole and watch elephants. Well that lasted until another guide told us about a male lion around the corner. It was a large adult male, missing two canines. He took a short walk while being watched by all the impala, roared to his companion, listened to the answer, and rested in the shade. In the meantime... A second male of the same size slowly walked across from the opposite mopani forest and also laid down as the sun set. That night we could hear them roaring, and also heard elephant rumbling.
For the morning drive we saw yellow mongoose, and then we went around the "marsh" looking for cheetah and bat-eared fox, both of which remained elusive. We had great displays from male kori bustard trying to attract the ladies, also of them flying, and more jackal. At Rhino pan there was a dead elephant that appeared to be being guarded by another elephant, as otherwise I think the scavengers would have been more active. Jackal, vultures, and marabou stork were all hanging around the carcass. We found some wild dog tracks but were not lucky there either. A male steenbok was getting lucky, however. Blue-cheeked bee eaters and crimson-breasted bush shrike were our sort of bird, colorful and photographable. We watched 3 male giraffe necking for some time, I had always wanted to see that behavior. Returning to the elephant-filled main pan, we heard where yet another male lion was hanging out with a female at Harvey's pans. The female lion wanted to hunt, the male just wanted to follow her around. Five roan antelope, another first for me, were keeping a close eye on the lions and followed them for a while. We saw one buffalo, rare for this area while it's still dry. And of course we saw lots more elephants. For the first time, the flies and lack of wind back at camp drove me inside the tent during the break. It was another hot day, the evening brought more lions, elephants, jackal, kori bustard, and an eagle owl, before we watched the sun set over the elephants at the pan.
The next morning, we knew where the lions were by their roaring but couldn't get there in the mopani forest. We headed back to Maun, the only day on our mobile safari we didn't see lions. That night was spent at Marina's in Maun, a nice place but too hot to sleep well. Dinner was at the Sports Bar.
Part 1 - South Africa/Botswana Trip
Part 2 - Hluhluwe/Umfolozi and St Lucia
Part 3 - Kruger
Part 4 - Mala Mala and Exeter Leadwood
Part 5 - Mashatu and Planet Baobab
Part 6 - Mobile Safari to Moremi, Kwai, Savuti
Part 7 - Vumbera Plains
Part 8 - Jwana Game Park, Cheetah Conservation Botswana