Kwando Safari Sightings for January have arrived. In this first post, we’ll feature Kwando Leabala Camp and Tau Pan Camp – note that Kwando Safaris has included a rather lengthy and interesting introduction to the rainy season as part of this first update. The next update will feature Kwando Lagoon Camp, Nxai Pan Camp, and Kwando Kwara Camp.
Kwando Safaris – January Rains
PULA! The rains arrived with a vengence in January….. read on
January forms part of the so-called rainy season in Northern Botswana. Unlike in other countries, the rainy season is not like monsoon, but simply indicates the time of year when rain is expected and hoped for, as opposed to the majority of the year when no rain at all falls. Generally, the clouds build up for a few days, and then there is a sudden and brief thunderstorm, which quickly settles the dust.
This January, about 27 out of 31 of those days followed this pattern. Four of them, however, broke all patterns. On the 16th January, it started raining. Hard. And it kept raining hard. For just over three days, it let up for only short periods, and by the end of that time, rain records that had been held for more forty years in Northern Botswana had been broken. Many camps reported over 55 mls of rain in each of the three days – figures that are rarely achieved. Just over one third of the annual expected total rainfall fell.
Although rain is a cause for celebration in Botswana, a country that is almost entirely covered by the Kalahari sands, all the staff sympathised with the guests who struggled through the rain to experience some of the safari they had travelled so far to see. For many, it was a bigger struggle than anyone anticipated, as the cloud cover remained so low, the small planes that act as the shuttle buses and supply vehicles of the safari industry were unable to fly. Some guests had to spend an extra night in a camp rather than moving on to the next, and a few missed their international connections, though with good humour – the camps are a slightly better place to spend a night rather than cramped inside a metal tube! .
Luckily, in most areas on the fourth day, the rain stopped and the sun came out. Areas such as Nxai that had been particularly parched prior to the rains, sucked up the water quickly, so that there was soon little to be found on the baked dry tracks. In Kwara, on the 15th of January, a manager noted how dry the area was, with no water under the three main bridges. Three days later, it was back to using the bridges, as the rain had re-filled the channels and pans. It has not rained again since.
So what does this mean for the coming flood season? Rainfall in Botswana does not form part of the catchment area for the rivers that make up the Delta. However, the cloud cover that provided the rain also covered most of Southern Africa, and resulted in the destruction of homes in many countries due to fast rising river waters A larger than normal rainfall in Angola will lead to a big flood in the Delta in a few months, depending on how much is sucked up by the vegetation as it travels along the slow moving river – for the Delta, it’s a matter of waiting and seeing!
Kwando Lebala Camp
The beginning of the year saw the Southern pack of dogs moving north west of Lebala camp. After feeding on impala one day, the pack spent the whole day along the edge of the water at Leopard road, before heavy rains arrived and they moved off to the thick Kalahari apple-leaf for cover. The next day they were found again, eating two baby impalas, and interacting with a group of hyenas. The dog pack was seen regularly throughout the month of January.
Lots of breeding herds of elephants are back in the concession, and are seen daily feeding and having mud baths after the good rains.
Tau Pan Camp
Tau Pan lion pride (currently just the two females and six young lions from the litters two years ago) had a good start to January, and killed an oryx on the southern side of the pan. They were seen feeding on it, after having taken it down during the night.
By the middle of the month, they had killed another oryx, which they seem to finally be developing a skill at catching!
A couple of days later, a cheetah was seen hunting to the west of the waterhole, and managed to catch a duiker. He was able to feed on the duiker for some time, before the jackals that had moved in on seeing him catch something, irritated him too much and he left.
A large number of white storks arrived in Tau Pan- 105 to be exact (!)… – and spent the days feeding on insects. The jackals – several families live on the Pan – tried their luck at catching them, but were unsuccessful. Jackals have an interesting family structure – the parents normally mate for life, and one or two pups from the first litter they have stay with the parents to help raise the next litter, before moving off and finding their own mate.
Our lovely visitors from last month – the wild dogs – also came back this month to the waterhole in front of camp. Numbering seven – two adults and five subadults – spent time running through the waterhole and playing. All look healthy, though the alpha female does have some scars on her shoulder and back, but these seem not to be bothering her. Last month there were eight in number, so we are hoping that the missing one was busy out hunting at the time they were seen.
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