The Pel's Fishing Owl is the second largest owl in Africa and for twitchers and non-twitchers this species is certainly a lifer to tick off the list! This magnificent specimen hunts at night so in the day they will hide in the canopies of large riverine forests making the Okavango Delta the perfect habitat for them – On top of the Owl being very rare, this elusive behaviour also makes them difficult to spot!
One of only three fishing owls in the world and aptly named for it, the Pels is extremely well adapted to an aquatic environment; unlike most other owls, the owl has scales underneath its feet to help grip slippery fish during flight and interestingly enough their wings are adapted to allow for minimal sound while flying making them precise and stealthy hunters.
If you are lucky enough to hear them calling, the adults make a very distinctive boom-like echo which sounds like hu-hu-hu and the juvenile owls make a very spooky screeching call, one of the airier night sounds you will hear in the delta.
Doctor, professional guide at Kanana, is an expert at spotting the rufous coloured plumage and black eyes of the Pels Fishing Owl through the canopy of Jackalberry trees at a place called “Mokuchum Alley" on the concession. He was on drive recently when he came across this beautiful find perched peacefully on a tree branch in this exact area!
Blog Story by Doctor (Professional guide at Kanana)
I was on an afternoon game drive with my guests when I saw a Side-Striped Jackal dragging an impala carcass across a dusty floodplain close to Okuti - He hadn’t made the kill but there was still a lot left of the impala for him to scavenge on. As the jackal was about to enjoy his meal, we saw a kettle of Lappet-faced vultures gathering and circling above, they had spotted the carcass and were ready to drop down for the feed.
Vultures can fly as high as a Cessna 206 aeroplane, they have an acute sense of smell and extraordinary vision which is why they moved in on this carcass as quickly as they did. One by one the vultures started dropping besides the Jackal, it was only a matter of seconds before they were going to over-power him. Eventually the Jackal admitted defeat and walked off slowly, perhaps it wasn’t his lucky day after all.
Vultures play a vital part in the eco-system as they clean the environment of decomposing carcasses and as a result eliminate lingering bacteria such as anthrax. They are perfectly adapted to this function with their eyesight and sense of smell as mentioned above, their strong beaks and extremely corrosive stomach acids which can break down rotten meat.
Blog story and images by Salani (Professional guide at Okuti)
Since the beginning of last year, a young male lion has inhabited the Shinde concession, our team of guides always joke and call him him “Boutu” which means magic or ghost in Setswana.
The reason we have named him this is because he plays hide and seek with us, you will hear him roaring throughout the night and into the early hours of the morning but when it’s time to track him on game drive he disappears like he was never there.
I was on an early morning game drive with my guests when finally the hide and seek game came to an end as I spotted him walking out of the long green grass, in an almost ghost-like manner. It amazed me how healthy this lion is looking, his coat is shining and he looks very well fed.
The question I ask myself is how long will this healthy lifestyle of Boutu last as we have a coalition of two brothers that own this territory where we saw him. Will Boutu continue to play hide & seek with the two brothers or will they catch up with him?
Story, Images & Video by Bee (Professional guide at Shinde)
The African Darter (Anhinga rufa) is an aquatic species of bird found abundantly in the Okavango Delta and other parts of sub-Saharan African. You will usually see the darters perched on top of papyrus stalks lining the waterways or lurching out of the water as it makes a hasty flight away from the approaching motor boat.
African Darters are also commonly known as Snakebirds - named so for the way their thin, elongated, serpent-like necks are often seen sticking out of the water as the rest of their bodies is submerged, or when mated pairs twist their necks during their bonding displays
Unlike many other aquatic species, the darter does not have an oily substance between its plumage which enables it to dive deeper whilst fishing. This also means that they are not waterproof and their wings are easily waterlogged hence the reason why they are often seen drying themselves in this angel-like position.
James, professional guide at Okuti, took this photo of a darter silhouetted against the late afternoon sun on the Xakanaxa lagoon – Arguably one of the best places to have a sun downer in the Moremi Game Reserve
Blog and images by James (Professional guide at Okuti)
It’s been a busy week of game viewing at Kanana and it seems as though the frequent leopard sightings are really providing for a lot of interesting game drives.
Junior, professional guide at Kanana, was on early morning game drive when he identified leopard spoor on the road in front of him – he knew immediately by the size of the spoor that Kanana’s largest male leopard was in the vicinity. When they eventually found him walking on a game path he was making his way towards camp.
(Photo taken by Junior, professional guide at Kanana)
Junior and his guests followed the male leopard until he was about three hundred metres from the entrance and as the leopard got closer he began scent marking and roaring frequently.
(Photo taken by Junior, professional guide at Kanana)
On the same morning Simon and Robby were also following a female leopard who was scanning the area as she stood on a termite mound just outside the gate to Kanana. There was an impala bull nearby which she began stalking, using the termite mound as cover. The impala sensed the female leopard’s presence and alerted the rest of the herd by snorting, ruining any chance of a good breakfast for the leopard.
(Photo taken by Simon, professional guide at Kanana)
Once everyone returned to camp after a successful game drive for all parties, the guides realised that the male leopard was roaring and scent marking as he approached the area where the female leopard was stalking the impala.
(Photo taken by Robby, professional guide at Kanana)
What happened once everyone returned to camp is a mystery but the female leopard was successful in killing an impala the same afternoon!
Story and images by: Simon, Robby and Junior (Professional guides at Kanana)
It had been a while since we had seen our resident cheetah family on the Footsteps side of the Shinde concession. We had regular sightings in 2016 but these elusive cats seemed to have disappeared for the early half of this year.
It was a cool autumn morning when I was transferring guests from the airstrip to Footsteps camp, scanning the open grasslands of Footsteps I spotted two cheetah sitting in the grass. As we approached I noticed that this was the female who inhabited the area last year and to my surprise she had a cub sitting next to her – perhaps this could explain the reason for her leaving the area temporarily, there are a lot of lion, wild dog and hyena on this part of the concession – all would be a major threat to her cub.
The cub was providing great entertainment for all of us as he was climbing up and down a dead mopane tree whilst the female seemed very alert, constantly scanning the area and keeping watch over her cub.
She seemed relaxed with the vehicle so I took the opportunity to move closer to her so my guests could make the most of this magical photo opportunity. As we approached we sadly saw the remains of her other six-month-old cub just next to her and from the tracks in the vicinity, it looked as though wild dog had killed the cub.
The joy and excitement of the sighting turned into a quiet sadness as everyone grasped the reality of the incident. The abundance of predators on the concession also means that there is a constant battle for survival and Cheetah, being the most shy and cautious of all the predators, seem to fall victim to this battle for territory.
Although the sighting ended on a sad note, the positive is that this female cheetah successfully raised two cubs last year and we hope that she can do the same with this cub!
Story and images by Omphile Kaluluka (Specialist guide at Footsteps)
Wattled Cranes and Hippos at Four Pans
Four Pans is in pristine condition from all the rain we have had and it is definitely one of the most picturesque areas at Shinde. This week Bonolo and Relax visited the pans with their guests on separate occasions and they both had great sightings.
Bonolo spotted a pair of Wattled Cranes walking and feeding in the shallows. This type of habitat is ideal for cranes and although these birds are on the list of endangered species, their numbers are flourishing in the Delta. Wattled Cranes feed on roots, tubers, bulbs of grasses and rhizomes which grow in shallow water. The birds nest on the flood plains where they only lay one or two eggs at a time but generally one chick hatches and is raised per breeding attempt. Wattled cranes are monogamous and pair for life.
Relax was on a morning Drive with his guests when they came across this pod of hippo sunning themselves at the pan, a very rare an unusual site to see so many of these animals exposed during the day!
Solly was on a night drive with his guests, it was drizzling and it seemed as though the game were all taking shelter as it was a quiet night. From a distance, Solly saw a pair of eyes glistening through the bush, "As we were busy maneuvering the Shinde grassland and bushes suddenly I saw bright eyes showing from a distance. I went close to check what it was and to my surprise it was the African Civet. This is one of the rare sightings I have seen in my entire fifteen years in the bush, it is only the second time I have seen it" I managed to get a blurry picture as the animals are very shy and it scampered off into the bush as we approached'
Shinde's largest male leopard.
There is a common male leopard which we see around the concession, this male leopard is 15 years old and we see him often. It has been in the Shinde area for its entire life life.I have seen it make kills and drag the carcus up the tree however recently when this leopard kills we have seen it feeding on the ground, perhaps because of its age, the leopard has lost its claw mark grip and as a result isn't able to climb trees. - Bee (professional guide at Shinde)
Stories and Images by Bee, Relax, Bonolo and Solly ( All professional guides at Shinde)
It was a peaceful autumn afternoon whilst we were on afternoon game drive; we were ambling along through the beautiful Shinde concession appreciating the fragrance of wild sage and admiring the sun’s reflection of red and orange shades against the lush green vegetation. It was almost time to stop for a sundowner when scanning the area we came across one of Shinde’s resident female leopard resting in a Marula tree not far from the airstrip.
You can’t see in the pictures but she is heavily pregnant and should be expecting cubs soon! This is very exciting news as this female is so accustomed to the vehicle and as we have seen in the past, she will often bring out her cubs in full view when they are still very young.
She was so relaxed as we sat and viewed her for the rest of the afternoon, forfeiting our sundowner, but it was definitely worth it! She eventually stretched her legs, jumped down from the fork of the tree and began disappearing into the long grass where she may begin her hunt for the evening.
We will certainly welcome the new addition/s to the family and will look forward to seeing them grow up on this piece of paradise.
Story and images by Bee (Professional guide at Shinde)
So often we go on game drives with predators or the “Big Five” as the main focus and we tend to forget about other interesting species of wildlife which we are so fortunate to have roaming the African wilderness, such an example is the fascinating Kudu antelope.
James and his guests were on an afternoon game drive at Okuti when they came across this majestic Kudu bull scanning the woodland area in the Xakanaxa region of the Moremi Game Reserve. Read James’ description of the sighting and how he identifies this particular moment as the Kudu’s way of surviving and adapting to an area where he is considered prey.
This massive male Kudu gave us a good show when it was standing proudly on top of a termite mound. One would think that maybe the Kudu was showing off but the real reason behind this behaviour is because he was taking advantage of the elevation of the termite mound to look out or scan the area for threats.
He was looking so majestic and beautiful, Kudus are one of the large antelopes that can be seen whilst staying at Okuti, they are not normally in large groups but you will occasionally see females in a group of seven or eight while the males are either solitary or in a small group of up to five. This is what we call a bachelor herd.
What makes this antelope particularly special is it's impressively large horns that can measure up to 120 centimetres. The average pair of horns will have two and a half spirals – a lot of weight to carry on top of your head!
Story and images by James (Professional guide at Okuti)
The Marula tree in front of Shinde is a real focal point of camp, it sets the stage for the melodious Shinde choir as they sing their welcoming to guests who have just arrived. It is also an attraction for wildlife of all shapes and sizes, from little honey bees to busy tree squirrels. There is however one visitor who happens to be the biggest of them all, Shinde’s resident bull elephant, he cannot resist the sweet and sour marula fruit the tree bears between the months of February and April.
This bull elephant has been living around Shinde for a long time now and he can be seen stretching his trunk between the decking to mop up Jackalberries or during the hot summer months, he is often submerged in the water below the dining room area.
‘’He is our resident elephant, he comes and goes but he can’t keep away from the marula fruits. I have known him for some time now and it is easy to distinguish him from others by his broken left tusk’’ says Omphile “Opie” Kaluluka (specialist guide).
He provides the guests with endless amusement; as everyone sits down for lunch the elephant moves in and he too begins to feast on the fresh greenery growing around camp. The lunch table is often deserted, the hunger pains disappear and the elephant becomes the star of the show.
“I’m not sure if it is a coincidence or if it’s Shinde magic, the elephant normally comes around lunch time to share the meal with us. Ladies and gentlemen lunch is served’’ Tebza, Shinde Camp Manager, jokes as he invites guests to have lunch on this particular day.
Blog and images by Bujos, Camp Manager at Shinde