Wildlife Holiday News

Botswana's Mammals

A customer travelled on our 'Botswana's Desert & Delta (Mammals)' tour and submitted this entry to our writing competition.

Lioness

The red ball, as Shadrach our driver called it, had just disappeared below the horizon and we took a few more turns along the sandy track. Suddenly we saw a light come into view and then a final twist and the camp site opened out in front of us. The tents were set out around a waterhole with the dining area behind. As we climbed down we were greeted with big smiles from the camp staff and a much needed welcome drink. We had arrived at Xakanaxa in the Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana - our home for the next four nights. And so we had begun what turned out to be a truly memorable safari.

After dinner it was off to bed as the next challenge was to get up at 5am the following morning. Sleep was interrupted by the occasional snort from a hippo, the call of hyena as they passed through the camp and the roar of lion in the distance. It was still dark when hot water was brought to the tent. We quickly dressed and, after toast and coffee, we were off on our first game drive.

As we drove out of camp in the afternoon Shadrach stopped the vehicle. He said he had heard reports of cheetah in another part of the reserve. ‘Shall we try and find them?’, he enquired. Silly question, ‘What you waiting for?’, came the immediate response. He put the vehicle through its paces as the scenery changed from mopane forest to much more open straw-coloured grassland. The soft sand in places slowed our progress, not to mention some rather interesting wooden bridges with some of the deck below the water level. The large flat open areas beyond the Bridge Three Gate were perfect areas for cheetah and everyone was on the edge of their seat scanning both sides of the vehicle. And then suddenly Shadrach with his incredible eyesight picked up the movement in the grass. Before long we had found three cheetahs that took advantage of a nearby termite mound and sat down to survey the surrounding countryside. We sat there marvelling at these magnificent creatures before they eventually wandered off and left us realising how lucky we had been to see this endangered species.

And so this trip went on with some amazing sights: herds of 1,000 Cape buffalo and 70 elephant; a pack of wild dogs and a pair of male lions all seen from the first camp. All too quickly we moved camp to the Khwai Community Area. Here we experienced the excitement of night drives. Without doubt the highlight came with the wild dogs. A pack was seen relaxing during the day. However, we had the good fortune to see the dogs on a kill that night and to observe the interaction between the members of the pack.

Our friend Rita, with whom we have been to Africa several times before, always says to the guide, ‘Find me a leopard up a tree.’ She has always returned home with this ambition unfulfilled. Not this time. Our last full day began quietly taking the track alongside the Khwai River. As we turned away from the river we came across a hyena on its way home. Not long after we saw a stationary jeep close to a tree. Investigating further we arrived just in time to see a leopard at the base of the tree walking off to a nearby bush. Looking up into the tree we discovered a pair of legs and a head which had once belonged to a common duiker. We moved on but returned, at the end of the morning drive, to find her up the tree finishing off the kill. Yellow-billed kites circled the tree in expectation of a morsel. During the meal the head of carcass fell to the ground. After the excitement of seeing the leopard come head-first down the tree, she circled the tree, picked up the head and disappeared into the undergrowth. Rita was grinning from ear to ear and said, ‘What shall I ask for next time?’

All good things have to come to an end, or so we thought. Having said our fond farewells to the camp staff we started on our way back to the airport at Maun, but incorporating a short game drive first. As we tracked along the river again, Shadrach’s eagle eyes picked up a pride of lions on the other side of the river. The trailer with our entire luggage was quickly unhitched from the jeep, left on river bank, and we took to the river with a bow wave coming well up the front grill. The pride had obviously just quenched their thirst at the river before making their way back to their resting spot for the day. The seven lions, two mothers and their offspring, slowly made their towards a tree stump where they collapsed in a heap and allowed the rising sun to warm their bodies. It was then a quick dash back across the river, hitch up the trailer and head straight for the airport. What a way to finish!

Read more about our 'Botswana's Desert & Delta (Mammals)' holiday.