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Posted by & filed under Omphile Kaluluka (Specialist Guide), Safari Stories, Young Explorers.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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Posted by & filed under Relax (Shinde guide), Safari Stories.

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.

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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.

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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!

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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’

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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)

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Stories and Images by Bee, Relax, Bonolo and Solly ( All professional guides at Shinde)

 

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Posted by & filed under Bee (Shinde Guide).

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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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Posted by & filed under James (Okuti Guide).

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.

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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.

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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)

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Posted by & filed under Bujos (Camp Manager), Safari Stories.

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.

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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).

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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.

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“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

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Posted by & filed under Safari Stories.

The African Jacana, also informally known as the Lily Trotter, is one of the most fascinating birds that you will come across when cruising the channels of the Okavango Delta. One can’t help but marvel at how well these birds have adapted to their environment. Part of the wader family, one will usually see the African Jacana conspicuously darting across lily pads that are floating in the middle of deep waterways.

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Most interestingly, the African Jacana has a very unusual mating pattern, scientifically known as the Polyandrous mating system. To put it simply, this means that the female mates with several males and the males will incubate and raise the chicks once the eggs have hatched. The female Jacana lays approximately three to four eggs at a time, either on a lily pad of choice or similar floating vegetation, she will then move off to find a new mate.

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There is some method behind this madness and it has to do with highly-evolved breeding behavior, instead of the female expending energy on raising young she can rather use this energy to increase the numbers of the species – one female can have up to twenty eggs being incubated at a time. The male African Jacana has therefore evolved some remarkable adaptations for parental care, such as the ability to pick up and carry chicks underneath its wing.

Recently at Kanana, guests were out on an afternoon mokoro trip when their poler spotted these Jacana eggs neatly laid on tangled reeds floating in the channel.

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Posted by & filed under Safari Stories.

A Botswana Folk Story

It was a long, long time ago in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, tortoise was crawling along when he met Serval on the path.

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Serval asked him if he had eaten that day, being the middle of winter, food was scarce so tortoise had not eaten and replied with a gloomy “no”. Serval laughed mischievously and asked tortoise to follow him, he told tortoise that there was dinner prepared for the two of them at home.

Tortoise gratefully accepted his invite, Serval bounded off ahead with tortoise following much further behind. Tortoise finally reached Serval’s home, when he got there Serval mocked tortoise about how slow he was but he re-assured tortoise that dinner was served – Serval pointed upwards into the tree where dinner was placed in amongst the highest branches. Poor tortoise was so disappointed, this meal was too far from his reach – it was all a prank played by Serval, who was rolling on the floor laughing.

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A few weeks later, Serval received a dinner invitation from tortoise. At first Serval was suspicious at the invitation, but he did not second guess himself for long as he knew what a good-natured creature tortoise is.

Being the dry season, tortoise burned a patch of grass around his home just next to the river, he prepared dinner and waited for Servals arrival. Serval arrived but having trampled across the burned grass, he was filthy dirty. Tortoise was not happy that Serval was dressed like this for dinner so he told Serval off for his bad manners and made him walk to the river for a wash. Serval scampered off to the river, he was starving and tortoises’ dinner smelt delicious.

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Serval washed himself quick and ran across to tortoise but, once again when he got there, he was covered in black marks from the burnt grass. Tortoise shouted at Serval for his dirty state and sent him off to the river for another wash, Serval could see all the dinner was disappearing.

This kept on happening and Serval could see the food was disappearing fast, as tortoise gulped down the last morsel serval realized he had been tricked. Serval ran all the way home across the burned grass and tortoise was content that he had gotten revenge on serval.

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To this day Serval is still covered in black spots from the soot of the burned flood plain!

Images by Relax (professional guide at Shinde), Moses (specialist guide) and Bonolo (professional guide at Shinde)

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Posted by & filed under Safari Stories.

The little bee-eater (Merops Pusillus) is a rich and brightly coloured bird that would catch your eye when you are on a walking safari or even a game drive. The Bee-Eaters mostly hunt from low perches, like small shrubs or low hanging tree branches as they will wait for insects to fly out of the long grass, ambushing and hunting them in mid-air

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If the bird catches a sizeable insect, it will hit the insect on hard surface to make sure it is dead – when witnessing this you would be surprised at how industrious these little birds can be.

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Little Bee-Eaters are truly the most photogenic birds in the wilderness, not only because of their striking colours, they have the most interesting characters. Little Bee-Eaters often fly in flocks of four and five and when they are not hunting as a team they are usually posing together on a branch (like the picture below).

 

Whilst leading a walking safari at Footsteps Across The Delta, I was lucky enough to capture these birds perched together on a tree branch. I wish they were facing the lens but luckily, we cannot plan animals behavior on safari as it wouldn’t be half the fun. Hopefully next time!

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Story and Images by Omphile Kaluluka ( Specialist Guide)

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Posted by & filed under Doctor (Kanana guide), Safari Stories.

The Green Season is in full swing in the Okavango Delta and in most places, the rainfall has not been this high in sixteen years! It’s incredible to witness the transformation from the dry, stark winter months to the lush summer we find ourselves in now.

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The landscape is a colour palette of different greens dotted with an array of colourful birds, flowers and insects. There has been a burst of new life as many of the species have given birth, from warthog piglets to African Jacana chicks hopping along delicate lily pads, it’s a fascinating and enjoyable time to be in Botswana.

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There is no better way to take in the Green season than to be on foot at the same level as the blanket of green grass that attracts a myriad of fauna and flora. Doctor recently guided his guests on a morning walking safari at Kanana, read below as he documents the experience:

The location for the walking safari at Kanana changes regularly depending on water levels and wildlife attractions. This particular day we were going to walk on paradise island, a lot of the area has been covered with water but there are areas that are still traversable and we don’t call it ‘paradise’ for names sake.

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It was a sunny day after what had been a few days of heavy rain so all the butterflies were out and the wild flowers were in full bloom. We walked for two hours and came across five giraffe, a herd of red lechwe and a family of warthog all feeding around a pan. We approached them quietly so the animals were completely undisturbed by us.

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The recent heavy rains have also eroded a lot of the termite mounds so we stopped and had a look at the newly created layers which the fungus termites had been furiously building before the next storm rolls in.Termites play a major role in the eco-system of the Okavango Delta and we often take them for granted as we drive past the mounds in the game drive vehicle. DSCN0719

As we were getting to the end of our walk, we could see puffy grey cumulonimbus clouds approaching us. We stopped for a well-deserved cup of tea and rusks and got into the boat to journey back to camp when it started pouring down as we arrived!

Story by Doctor (professional guide at Kanana)

 

Posted by & filed under Omphile Kaluluka (Specialist Guide), Safari Stories.

With top speeds of 112 km/h cheetahs are fascinating cats to view in the wilderness. At Footsteps, we are fortunate to have a mother with two cubs who reside in the area, the open terrain on this part of the concession is a perfect habitat for these animals.

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Recently, I was out on a short drive with guests, we were going to find a base from which to start a walk. It must have been my lucky day, as we drove into the open grass plains there the beautiful specimens were. We all came to the agreement that the walk was going to be delayed, it was worth it, even if it meant walking in the heat of the day.

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The cubs were very active as the mother lay on her side, constantly scanning the area and remaining alert. With lions roaming and ruling the Footsteps area amongst other predators, I am very impressed that this adult cheetah has managed to raise two cubs.

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We have seen her fairly regularly on the concession, as the cubs starting growing she would occasionally leave them and go out hunting, most times returning with a kill. Cheetah are facing a habitat loss crisis which has led to them being placed on the list of endangered species, in saying this, I hope that these animals continue living and breeding in the safe haven of the Footsteps area.

Images and story by Omphile Kaluluka (Specialist guide)