After the major excitement of multiple kills by wild dogs at the end of 2011, the beginning of the year was off to a more sedate pace. However, this soon picked up with the wild dogs again chasing and killing impala. At the end of the month they had spent time very close to Lagoon Camp
, and managed to bring down three baby impalas in one day. All the puppies from last year are growing up fit and strong – 100% survivor rate, which is excellent news for the highly endangered wild dog population.
The New Year also brought in new visitors – a male lion of approximately 8 years old, in excellent condition, was seen on his own by Giraffe Pan. He may have overstepped his boundaries intentionally for a look to see who challenges him, or he may have been forced out by a stronger pride. It will be interesting to see if he stays around, and if he has any altercations with the other lions resident in the area.
In the second week of January we had a lovely female leopard seen around the airstrip. She was very relaxed, and spent considerable time hunting and scent marking. This is a good indication that she is getting ready to mate, and is interested in marking her status as
Although the big buffalo herds have moved off into the thick mopane veld now that rainwater has collected in many of the pans, the breeding herds of elephants are spending a lot of time in the area.
It is a little more challenging to see animals on the night drives at this time of year, with the grasses being high, but hyenas and side-striped jackals were seen regularly in the area close to the airstrip, and there was lots of activity seen of the shy nocturnal aardvark, but sadly not the creature itself!
The camp was closed for 10 days for annual maintenance in January, so we didnt have a chance to see some of the regulars such as the cheetah brothers during that time, but hopefully they will be waiting for us in early February!
The stillness of the night is broken by the distant roaring of lions. The quiet tip-toeing of a whitish-grey elephant as it looms across the plain in the moonlight, heading to the waterhole. Theres a rustling from a few metres away – a scrub hare, nibbling on grass shoots. Then the shuffle and neighing, as a herd of zebra move in. Sometimes, the best sightings are those that you dont actually see, but the combination of sound, (or silence) smell, and glimmers in the dark. Sitting on the deck in front of the your room at Nxai Pan
at night, no clouds in the sky – its not a view necessarily of animals that is magical, but its an experience that will be one of the highlights of your trip. The horizon stretches on, only stopping where the pin points of stars disappear.
Very little rainfall since the beginning of December has meant the animals have been forced to return to the waterholes dotted around the park. This means plenty of action also at the camp waterhole, with elephants chasing zebra out of the way, so they can drink, and shy brown hyenas slinking in to have a quick sip as the sun slowly rises above the horizon.
Lion sightings have been numerous, with the pride of four females with two nearly adult cubs and three 8 month old cubs being seen on most days. Sometimes relaxing in the shade near the waterholes, keeping an eye on the general game that moves past them, waiting for an opportunity to catch some unsuspecting prey. A big male lion was also seen at the side of one of the waterholes, relaxing after a long night of prowling his territory. A female cheetah with two cubs was also seen regularly – her offspring look fit, and well-cared for. This is prime time for catching springbok babies that are in abundance at the moment. It is up to the mother to teach her cubs how to hunt, and she does this by catching a young buck but not killing it, and then giving it to the cubs to kill (not always successfully…)
Wonderful general game throughout the park, with the zebras having arrived – though not in the numbers that they were last year due to the late rains. Giraffes, wildebeest, springboks and all their babies bouncing everywhere, create a wonderful atmosphere on the drives.
The good birding continues, with red crested shrikes, crimson breasted shrikes, marico flycatchers, scaly feathered finches, little sparrow hawks and steppe buzzards.