Posted by & filed under Bonolo (Shinde guide).

It was a very peaceful morning in the Shinde concession and we were ambling along on game drive fairly close to the lagoon. Just ahead, a tree branch was hanging over the lagoon, and perched on it was a beautiful African fish eagle. The bird was alert, focusing on the water and moving his wings as though he was about to take off at any moment.

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In an instant the fish eagle swopped down towards the water and in one movement the bird emerged with a sizeable catfish. My guests could not believe the speed and precision of the hunt as well as the size of the fish the eagle was able to lift out the water.

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We are lucky enough to see the African fish eagle regularly at Shinde as there is a permanent water source that provides a great habitat for these birds of prey. Their distinct call often echoes through the camp and for me, I believe, it is the unique call of Africa.

Interestingly enough, African fish eagles are monogamous and they will mate for life. They are very successful breeders and a habitat like the Okavango Delta is the perfect breeding site as they build their nests fairly close to the water and will probably use these nests for the duration of their life span.

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Many guests ask how the fish eagle is able to see fish, in sometimes, very deep, dark water. The African fish eagle has extremely accurate vision, this is owing to the fact that they have five times as many light receptors as the human eye does, therefore they are able to pick up colours which would appear camouflaged to the human eye.

Story by Bonolo (professional guide at Shinde)

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

I guess when the tough gets going exceptions can be made and sharing becomes caring in the bush. We left Footsteps camp for an afternoon game drive and we came across a hyena who looked extremely agitated as he was running around in circles in front of the game viewer. At first I thought it was running from lions but the hyena kept sniffing in the air and running where the wind was blowing from.

This is typical behavior of a hyena sensing that his next meal may be close by and straight away I knew he was up to something interesting so I followed it. As I was following the hyena I saw hooded vultures circling from a distance and the hyena was heading towards them so excitement started building up and I immediately put my foot down and accelerated towards the scene.

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To my surprise I found our resident two wild dogs had managed to take down an impala and more surprisingly the hyena had joined them in eating the kill. The dogs showed no animosity towards the Hyena and all three animals carried on as if they were a part of one pack. In my 10 years of guiding in the Okavango Delta I have never come across such a jaw dropping experience and even my guests said it was their first time to see this after watching so many documentaries of predators.

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These two African wild dogs were originally from a pack of five dogs. Around April we started seeing a separation of the pack as the two female wild dogs were fighting for the alpha female dominancy. The three males also started showing signs of interest in the females which ultimately led to the final separation of the pack.

The pack of three moved further to the eastern side of the concession whilst the two dogs moved further to the western side. The Golden pack gets its name from the female African wild dog who has a golden like colouration which is a very unusual trait for the species. This female currently has nine puppies and she is denning close to our neighbouring camp. These two females use a particularly clever hunting strategy as they cannot rely on a pack for support, they will chase antelope from an open flood plain into water/marsh areas, making the prey less mobile and easier for the two of them to capture.

Story and images by Omphile Kaluluka & Moses Teko

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

We decided to feature our resident male lion at Shinde as our appropriate blog character today as we raise awareness for these majestic animals on World Lion Day 2016.

While we were out on an afternoon drive with my guests we came across one of our resident male leopard sitting on a termite mound under a Jackalberry tree. My guests were awe-struck by this sighting as we sat in silence and watched this specimen resting in the tree. After about ten minutes and once everyone had taken a sufficient number of pictures we moved around to the other side of the tree to try and get a different angle of the leopard.

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As I started the vehicle the leopard got up and moved to the bottom of the termite mound, his movement caught the attention of something in the grass, about twenty metres from us. To my surprise a male lion got up, from what was a very camouflaged position in the flood plain. The first thought that crossed my mind was how exciting it was to have two such powerful predators in such close proximity.

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This male lion has been in the Shinde area for some time, it was part of a coalition of four powerful dark-maned male lions that we see regularly on the property. Until quite recently, this male was in a territorial fight and subsequently kicked out of the coalition. During the fight he injured his leg and tends to walk with a limp hence the reason why we have called him the Setswana name “Raleoto” which, in English, translates into Mr leg.

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We drove closer to where Raleoto was standing only to realise he was feeding on a Red Lechwe. Looking to my left, I could see drag marks from the bottom of the tree, where the leopard was lying and it struck me that this lion had stolen the antelope from the leopard. Being slightly injured he had to rely on another means of feeding himself, also Raleoto is also not hunting with a pride making it slightly harder to take down prey. This truly was a spectacular sighting and I believe that this is not going to be the last time that Raleoto uses this tactic to his advantage.

 

Blog story and image by Relax (professional guide)

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

Guiding at Kanana has brought a lot happiness to my life for lots of reasons, the most important one is that I am able to view predators in their natural environment. It was a crisp winter morning on game drive when we came across a pack of seven African wild dog basking on an open flood plain. One does not see wild dog in this state very often as they are constantly on the move so this was a great sighting as we really got to observe these unique animals while they were resting.

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About ten minutes later a Reed buck walked past the dogs, due to their camouflaged colouration, the antelope was completely oblivious to the fact that they were lying right there. All of a sudden the dogs pricked their ears up and sat to attention watching the Reed buck’s every move. One of the dogs instinctively got up and immediately started the chase and at this stage it looked as though it was going to make the kill. There was such excitement coming from the back of the game vehicle as this really was an action packed moment and we were all expecting the kill to take place right then and there.

African wild dog

At this point the chase was about a hundred metres ahead of us, they were running along the edge of the marsh when a herd of Red Lechwe happened to be drinking just in front of them. The Reed buck looped around the Lechwe and the dog slowed down to a halt, probably realising he had lost distance that he would not be able to make up without help from his team.

The rest of the pack watched from their spot on the ground with no intention of helping their fellow team mate with the hunt. It was unfortunate that we did not get to see the kill but an encounter like this is just as exciting to watch, even if there was no positive outcome for the wild dog.

Blog by Simon (professional guide)

Photo credit: Des Green

Posted by & filed under Bee (Shinde Guide).

The Southern Carmine Bee- Eater (Merops Nubicoides) is one of our resident migrants that form a part of the vibrant fauna and flora that make up the Okavango Delta in summer season. We all appreciate these birds and their striking colouration when we have the pleasure of viewing them in the bush but once they leave, do we know where they return to?

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The Southern Carmine Bee-Eater is an Intra-African migrant and interestingly enough, they never stay at their nesting sites for more than a couple of months. From the end of September to the end of March (Weather patterns dependant) they are found at their breeding sites in Southern African countries like Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. Once the breeding season is over the Bee-Eaters will migrate into equatorial Africa, countries such as Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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On game drive and around camp the Bee-eaters are seen sitting along branches waiting for insects to fly out of the grass so they can attack while in flight. They are extremely social birds and because they migrate to Southern Africa to breed they are very vocal in their interaction with one another, and are often the loudest amongst their feathered friends.

Story by Bee (Professional guide)

Posted by & filed under Bonolo (Shinde guide).

I went out for a morning game drive with my guests and it turned out to be a fairly quiet day on the Shinde concession however we were lucky to find a Serval cat. We were surprised to see this little cat out and about in the sunshine as it is specified as a primarily nocturnal, it's beauty and grace definitely made up for the slow day.

I saw this cat while we were heading towards the hippo pools in an open patch of grassland. There was no hint of a breeze but the swaying and shaking in the grass betrayed the serval's presence as he hunted mice or rats along tiny paths in the grass. It was a very interesting sighting into the life of one of these special creatures.

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Serval also feed on birds, frogs and fish and are distinctive with their slender bodies, long legs and short tail. They are marked by black spots merging into bands and white bars on the back of their large ears. Males and females live apart in overlapping ranges usually found near water. Fully grown, a serval can weigh up to 18 kg's.

Story by Bonolo (Professional guide)

Posted by & filed under Maria Henson, Safari Stories.

If you hear that Moremi Game Reserve is rocking these days, chances are it’s not only because of the wildlife spotted. The Okuti choir is putting on a show.




Guests at Okuti were treated to what choir members call a full-blown “presentation” one night this week. The half-hour concert featured singing, drumming, clapping, drama and traditional dancing. Twenty members strong, the co-ed choir is one of the loudest, happiest and most harmonious I have heard in Africa. They perform songs written by waiter Laone “JohnBoy” Kehemetswe, the choirmaster, and a classic that never fails to move guests with its lyrics sung under the Southern Cross: “Oh, beautiful Africa…. Africa.... I shall never forget…. beautiful Africa.”



Says Gakenathata “Solly” Solomon, a guide, “Dancing is part of our culture. We're still showing our culture to our guests to show it is very, very special. Even though people are changing up their lifestyles, living in cities, the culture still exists. We show the presentation of life.”





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“Solly when he found me (in school), he was very good in dancing. And then I was the best,” says Ontlametse “Chachos” Njwaki, laughing. “We were always dominating each other. In our school we had the prize  giving. He had a prize, and I had a prize.” One would be selected for first place, the other second, and then it would switch.

 

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He and Solly were among 14 traditional dancers who competed against students from around Botswana – Maun, Gumare, Shakawe. “We were always the best,” says Chachos.



By good fortune, Chachos, who started later in pursuing his dream of becoming a guide than Solly, landed last year in Okuti. He finally was a guide like Solly. But he found that Solly had not been dancing. With the two friends and competitors reunited, that changed. Dancing took off in the choir.



“We started to remind ourselves of the steps that we used to dance in school,” he says. “People were impressed to see Solly dance.”




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 They began working with the other guys. “We are trying to teach “NT,” but the legs is too heavy. Salane is really trying, but the only thing with him is that he is quite old – 43 years old -- but he's trying at the back,” says Chachos, getting a big laugh from guide Ntshupegetsang “NT,” Forombi of the choir. (Salane is Salane Masala, a guide.)



Solly says, “When dancing I feel very proud of my country and my culture.
Even the guests say, ‘This is the best choir ever since we’ve been traveling around.’ The magic is we practice. And we write and combine the songs.”



Chachos sums it up best: “We’ve grown up singing and dancing. … When I sing, when I dance, I will sleep -- wow -- with good memories.”



- Maria Henson, a guest at Okuti in June 2016, spent a glorious year on sabbatical in Botswana in 2008. She loves the “Beautiful Africa” song and still has tears well up when she hears it.


Posted by & filed under Maria Henson.

Look around at Shinde, which sits on a palm island in the Okavango Delta. Do you see the artisans’ work around you in your tent or on shelves in the library area?

 Those beautiful baskets have been woven by housekeepers KP Basimane and Ester Saokwa, among other staff members. They use leaves from  palm trees and sometimes roots of the aloe vera, dye them some of them using plant extracts, and, after wetting the strands to keep them malleable, weave them with a wire tool. The designs have names such as Tears of the Giraffe, Knees of the Tortoise, Running Ostrich and Back of the Python.

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KP learned to weave at nine years old in her village of Sankuyo. Her mother taught her, just as her grandmother taught her mother. Ester learned from her mother at 12 in Shorobe.

 

They weave often in “the siesta time” in the afternoon. It gives them a feeling of peacefulness, they said. A translator listens to them and relays to me their message. “They don't want this culture to die. Their parents were making the baskets. They grew up making baskets, and they still want to pass it on to their grandchildren.”

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Ester speaks and the translator says, “She is very happy doing it. She is doing it out of the love.” It shows.

 

-          Maria Henson was a guest at Shinde in June 2016 and spent a year on sabbatical in Botswana. She displays Botswana baskets in her house.

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

After what had been a very successful day in the bush, it was time to wind down and enjoy a sundowner before we sat for dinner under the stars. The day’s sightings had made for lots of stories and there was certainly a buzz coming from the open area at Kanana. It was time to move towards the dinner table, once we sat down my guests immediately gazed upwards to look at the star-peppered sky, this scene along with the night time bush chorus is something I will never take for granted.

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The usual nightly chorus consists of a few Foam-nest tree frogs and the “tink tink” sound of the Epauletted fruit bat, however this night turned out to be slightly different. My guests and I were mid conversation when we heard a dramatic snapping and crashing of branches below the deck, unbeknown to us, a large bull elephant had come to join us for dinner. He looked curious at first, lifting his trunk to pick up our scents but as the elephant began to move closer I could sense a hint of frustrated caution in his eyes.

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I asked my guests to back off from him to respect his space and as we moved back he stepped forward and put his trunk out in our direction. It was magical to be so close to this giant and it was an exciting end to the day however an interaction like this really does remind us how unpredictable nature can be.

Story by Simon (Kanana guide)

Posted by & filed under Safari Stories, Salani (Okuti Guide).

This was one of those days where you truly appreciate your job and I realised how privileged I am to work in the wilderness of Okuti camp in the Moremi Game Reserve. I had guests who arrived late in the afternoon after they had been travelling for 24 hours so I was very surprised that they were so eager to go on the afternoon game drive but their enthusiasm for exploring this little piece of Africa was very inspiring.

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We embarked on our first game drive together straight from the airstrip, we came across a lot of general game; monkeys swinging through the trees and impala getting their last feed in before dusk. It wasn’t long before we came across a female leopard who was fairly well camouflaged behind a large Fever Berry Tree, she was resting peacefully, completely undisturbed by the sound of the vehicle.

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It happened to be time for sundowners but we really didn’t want to leave this beautiful creature so we had our drinks on the vehicle, my guests mesmerized by her rosettes. The leopard started getting up slowly, taking in her surroundings as she contemplated her next movement. She walked up a dead acacia tree to get herself more of a view of the area, there was nothing that caught her attention so she walked down straight past the vehicle. My guests were so excited with this sighting and it set a great atmosphere for the rest of their stay at Okuti.

Story and images by Salani (Okuti guide)