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
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.
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.
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.
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)