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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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
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.
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!
Story and Images by Omphile Kaluluka ( Specialist Guide)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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)
“The only real power comes out of a long rifle” Joseph Stalin once said. The Ker & Downey Botswana guides felt that power when they all met at Footsteps for the rifle training. As the morning sun rays reflected on the water puddles around four pans with birds orchestrating their melodious calls, one could sense the positivism, enthusiasm and the energy from all the guides as they shared their experiences.
The priority of the training this year was walking safaris and rifle handling, this is as a result of an increase in “Footsteps Across The Delta” bookings. It is so important for us to equip our guides with the relevant skills and knowledge of both walking in the bush and the handling of high caliber rifles. The Okuti guides also came to join us on the Shinde concession for the training, even though the Camp does not conduct a walking safari, Okuti is situated in a Game Reserve and therefore it is required that the guides learn these skills.
We worked as a team and shared with one another how to conduct a walking safari, to mention a few of the topics; the terrain ideal for guided walks, approaching animals and the equipment needed for a walking safari.
The rifles that we handled were the .458 and 30.06 calibers, each guide had to learn how to safely load and unload both rifles, how to safely carry the rifle while walking and, in case of emergencies, how to shoot a potentially dangerous animal. There were three targets set at different distances from five meters to fifteen metres. All the guides did extremely well considering the rough and rainy weather conditions and it is safe to say that everyone is well prepared for the start of the season.
Images and Blog by Omphile Kaluluka (Specialist guide)
Kanana concession in the Okavango Delta is dominated by some of the “BIG TUSKERS”. These are the elephant bulls which roam the concession all year round. Once they leave the breeding herd, bull elephants spend their days in isolation or moving between small bachelor herds and as the water receeds and the temperatures sore, we see a lot of elephant activity around the heronry.
Exploring the Kanana channel by boat to the magnificent heronry island, one witnesses “a traffic jam” of these big grey giants blocking the channel. They feed on a fresh variety of aquatic plants whilst bathing to cool themselves down from the heat. It is common to see an elephant with a vine of water lillies wrapped around his trunk, he will then shake the sand off and devour the whole lot.
When you reach the heronry you will be welcomed by different melodious sounds of birds. The heronry is a breeding ground for numerous species of aquatic birds. To name a few; The gigantic Marabou stock with it’s red pouch ready to court the opposite sex, the Open Billed Stork fighting it’s way for a perfect landing spot and of course the Pink-Backed Pelicans are also present and taking their stand so as to not be outshined by the dainty Egrets with their delicate white feathers.
Story and Images by Doctor (professional guide at Kanana)
Gasekgale “Kelly” Thebe is a crowd pleaser at Shinde and an example of someone in Botswana’s tourism industry who aspired to move up and did.
She first worked as a housekeeper in this camp when she arrived 20 years ago. She advanced to become a waitress and eventually a trainee chef. In recent years she has been the head chef, serving up anything from pork ribs to quiche to oxtail stew to granadilla cheesecake.
During my stay she and the staff served dinner on the lawn near the lagoon under the stars with luminaria twinkling in the dark. The scene was storybook perfection, with an opening to the evening that included harmonious singing and foot stomping by the choir of staff members around the fire.
“At night we come here to sing,” Kelly says, “to make the guests happy.”
Singing is one of her favorite activities at Shinde, as is the celebration each September 30 of Independence Day for Botswana. She makes cakes featuring the flag of Botswana, and celebrates with all the staff members, who come from different tribes and areas of the country to work here. Kelly calls them family. “When I have a problem, they talk with me. When I am sick, they can care for me. They treat me like my mother.”
Ask Kelly her favorite dish, and it is an easy answer: seswaa, pap (maize meal the consistency of polenta), and peeled and cooked roots of the water lilies. I refer to seswaa as Botswana barbecue. When she is at home, Kelly cuts beef into chunks and places the meat in water in a three-legged iron pot on the fire outdoors. Depending on the tenderness of the meat, she will cook it for up to four hours. Salt, pepper and a little vegetable oil will be the only other ingredients. Once the meat is done, Kelly pounds it into chopped barbecue consistency. Delicious!
There might be one change once in a while at home – a change of chef. “My daughter cooks for me,” she says, pointing out that sometimes when she goes back home after cooking for all of the Shinde visitors from around the world she needs a rest. Well deserved, I would say.
Maria Henson was a guest in Ker & Downey Botswana’s Shinde and once spent a sabbatical year living in beautiful Botswana
A couple of months back we spoke to Doctor about the lion activity on the Kanana concession and he mentioned the Eastern pride, two incredibly powerful male lions who moved into the area, joining a group of females – the group is now known as the Kanana Pride. Click here to read Doctor’s blog about the pride.
Isaac recently witnessed a fascinating sighting involving the two eastern males which he documents below:
We were on an early morning game drive near paradise island when I saw a funeral of vultures circling ahead. I drove towards the area to investigate, as we approached a strong stench filled the air – I knew immediately that there was a dead animal nearby.
As we came around the corner we saw the two males from the Kanana pride feeding on a sub-adult hippo. This is not a common occurrence but it didn’t surprise me as It wasn’t even two weeks before this sighting that I saw them dragging a huge male giraffe that they had killed.
These two males are dominating the concession and have fathered three cubs since their arrival. This is such a positive sign for the lion population at Kanana and we hope to see their numbers increase gradually from here onwards
Story and images by Isaac Tapa (Professional guide at Kanana)
Relax and his guests were on a leisurely morning game drive at Shinde when they came across this Bateleur sitting on a dead tree stump near the four pans area. It is not often that one gets to view these magnificent birds of prey at such proximity.
The name Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus) means ‘tightrope walker’ in French because of the unbalanced side-to-side rocking movement it makes whilst in flight. As an adult bird, this species is certainly one of the more colourful birds of prey and it can be identified by its grey, black and tawny plumage and bright red face, legs and black beak, the distinguishing feature though is the eagles unbelievably short tail.
The courtship display in breeding season is fascinating to watch; when the pair are soaring along the male will suddenly somersault and dive down towards the female, flashing his vibrant plumage in the process. This will attract the female and the breeding process will begin. The female will usually lay one egg and the pair will use the same nest for consecutive years.
The bateleur mainly feeds on small reptiles and rodents such as snakes, rats, mice and squirrels. It will spend majority of the day flying and its ultra-sharp vision will allow for it to spot prey from a substantial distance.
We are lucky enough to view this beautiful bird in its natural habitat at Shinde!
Blog and images by Relax (professional guide at Shinde)
It was time to gather on the deck for high tea at Kanana, whilst sipping on an Arnold Palmer I noticed that giant cumulonimbus clouds had gathered in the distance, for what we hoped, was a signal of well-needed rain. A short drive had us arrive at the mokoro station, while Simon our guide loaded some refreshments into the vessel I noticed a pair of Malachite Kingfishers sitting on a bright green strand of papyrus. It looked like an adult and a juvenile bird and they were diving into the water in what seemed to be a ‘fishing lesson’.
We emerged ourselves into the dug-out canoe and began moving down the channel in a very leisurely manner. Fish were darting off into the reeds and the water was lapping over the lily pads as we gently broke the surface of the water.
T-Man, our Mokoro poler, spots something overhead, we veer off the main channel into a small opening in the reed bed. Standing up now, I noticed everyone was confused as to why we had stopped so soon into our journey but nevertheless we adjusted our eyes to the direction that T-man was pointing in.
There, at the foot of a termite mound, was a large male lion, a lioness and their tiny cub that must have been approximately three months old. The three of them were feeding on a Sitatunga, a bitter-sweet realisation. Simon mentioned that these lions may be part of a pride which we have been seeing regularly around this island.
We peered through our binoculars at this marvelous sighting for about twenty minutes before carrying on to the Heronry. The Heronry was buzzing with birdlife and the silent movement of the mokoros meant that the birds were undisturbed by our presence.
It is hard to beat the peace and sheer joy one feels when floating on a mokoro through the Papyrus lined channels of the Okavango Delta.