Kasane – A Wild Place
We came across Elephant, Buffalo, Jackal, Sable Antelope and a pack of Wild Dogs …….. and that was before we entered Chobe National Park!
Kasane is a small town on the far northern border of Botswana, its claim to fame being that it is the gateway to Chobe, one of the great African game reserves. It is also an unpredictably wild town – elephants and other wild animals occasionally wander through the residential area, often at night and the locals are in the habit of setting off thunderflashes to scare them off.
Another visit this month to Kasane to visit the project in which I am involved, meant another opportunity to squeeze in a visit to Chobe – this time we set out to do an early morning drive through the Riverfront section, before the day’s business began.
We set off as the sky was starting to lighten and on the short drive to the entrance gate we came across a pack of Wild Dogs, who were seemingly on a mission as they trotted along the road. Being pack hunters they would be looking for prey that they could pursue in their relentless fashion, wearing it down until the prey becomes exhausted and vulnerable to the attacks of the pack. We had seen the same pack the previous afternoon, not far from the airport and were able to get really close to them as they lazed the afternoon away in the shade of a large roadside tree, which provided some relief from the hot sun but not from the many flies that were buzzing around their heads.
Entering Chobe, we proceeded along the sandy, bumpy track with regular sightings of the animals we have become accustomed to finding –
- Elephants aplenty, including quite a few youngsters, not wandering far from Mom
- Sable Antelope
- Buffalo – circa 500+ on the Lechwe Flats
- Hyenas – a pair were making their way back from the river into the bush as we passed by
The best sighting of the morning was reserved till last. We encountered two Lionesses, strong and healthy looking individuals, as they made their way to a pool to drink (although we could not see the pool which was concealed by a deep donga) and moments after discussing the possibility of a male being nearby, a handsome male with a full mane of hair appeared and also headed towards the donga.
What followed was without doubt one of the more interesting Lion encounters I have had the privilege of experiencing, as the two Lionesses and the Lion played out a brief but fascinating series of moves. Initially the two Lionesses did a circular dance-like move in unison, as if sizing each other up, then one of them walked off slowly to the water and disappeared into the donga, The remaining Lioness and the Lion seemed to greet and gently caress each other before she too moved off towards the water, leaving the male to rest on the sandy ground and regally take in his surroundings.
Both Lionesses eventually returned and settled in different spots a distance from the male, who studiously ignored both of them as if in a huff.
The morning light lent a pleasant glow to the scene and created perfect conditions for photography as the Lions performed, oblivious to their excited audience, which by now had grown to 5 or 6 safari vehicles which arrived a short while after we spotted the first one. The photos are in the sequence taken –
The birding was limited to the “large and obvious” species for the most part –
- Plenty of Guineafowl
- Francolins and Spurfowl – Crested, Swainson’s and Red-billed were present in numbers
- Hornbills – Red-billed, Yellow-billed, Bradfield’s and Ground all well represented
- Carmine Bee-eaters are back in numbers and prominent in the sky or perching in bare trees at a few spots
- White-browed Robin Chat, extra bright in the golden early morning light
- A family of Orange River Francolins was a pleasant surprise and I was able to get my first photos of the mostly secretive species before they scuttled off into the bush
A truly wonderful morning’s game and bird viewing in this magical part of Southern Africa!