The large male Sitatunga lifted his head, laying his long spiral shaped horns down along his back and watched the aircraft turning onto finals as we approached to land at the Kanana airstrip. We were on our way to carry out a survey of the Kanana Heronry that lies within Ker & Downey Botswana's concession in the Okavango Delta. It was a great start to a really lovely trip.
After lunch in the beautifully sited & well-shaded camp we jumped into a boat & made our way leisurely up the lovely clear papyrus & reed-lined channels leading to the heronry. We motored slowly past a small school of hippo that lay quietly & unconcernedly watching the boat and a short distance past the Hippo we stopped to watch a a small breeding herd of Elephant come down to drink. Further up, we watched several Giraffe feeding while surrounded by a large herd of Lechwe that were grazing out in a beautifully green meadow of grass. These sightings were quickly followed by a wonderful close up sighting of a family group of Sitatunga feeding in the Papyrus & reeds right next to the channel.
All to quickly we arrived at the Heronry to find that the only birds that had moved in to breed were Pink-backed Pelicans. We motored slowly around the breeding islands to see if anything else was hidden away in the dense stands of Gomoti figs that the birds breed in. A large flock of Black-crowned Night Herons flushed out of one clump of figs and a small group of White-backed Duck with four small ducklings swam away as we approached them, it was a truly idyllic setting.
In the late evening we made our way slowly home, watching the sunset in a glorious array of colours.
Early the next morning we once again made our way up to the heronry, birdlife abounded as we watched a Fish Eagle being dive bombed by an irate Blacksmith plover and little Malachite Kingfishers darting away like little blue spitfires as we approached them. As we traveled on a large crocodile slithered off the edge of an anthill on which it had been basking. We watched him make his way slowly through the crystal clear water toward the channel & parked the boat virtually over his back as he lay in the shallow water at the edge of the Channel.
On arriving at the Heronry we spent the next three hours counting the numbers of breeding Pelicans & then once that task was complete we drifted quietly around the area to see what we could find. A lone Bull Elephant fed contentedly on the roots of Papyrus next to the channel as we passed close by him.
On returning to the Heronry we were greeted by the sight of a camp boat that had brought us out lunch. What an unexpected treat as a table was set up and we enjoyed a beautifully presented lunch!
After lunch we spent the afternoon, parked off trying to film the unique drinking behavior of the breeding Pink-backed Pelicans – this drinking technique had never been observed before and, with patience, we were able to film these great birds drinking on the wing like some kind of Giant skimmer.
Late in the evening we returned to camp & after a leisurely shower, we were whisked off for a bush dinner, arriving at a pan that was set up with tables, food and a great fire by which we could keep warm. Dinner under a magnificent starlit sky was followed by a lovely night drive home during which we watched a Genet trying to catch roosting doves high up in a tree.
Story and Images by Mark Muller and Alison Flatt.