The summer months have certainly been pushed aside and we have seen the lovely winter skies coming to Chitabe. A cold front pushed through towards the end of the month with some chilly mornings, but the days have been just perfect with comfortable temperatures and blue skies.
April has been an exceptional month for game viewing at Chitabe with lots of spotted cats and painted dogs as well. We’ve had many a day where the guests have seen a variety of predators all in one day. One evening in camp, we heard the mournful "whoo" call of some wild dogs in the distance. Wild dogs often do this type of "contact" call in order to find a member of the pack that may have been separated during a hunt. The next morning the Chitabe guides found the pack as it was making its way towards the Gomoti Channel; they appeared to have found their missing members and were happily reunited. The entire pack was in such a playful mood, bounding and leaping through the grass, which was a joy to watch.
A few days later in the early morning, Chitabe Lediba was a hive of activity. Firstly a leopard had walked right through the camp and island and was spotted again walking over the bridges. About an hour later, the pack of dogs once again were in the area and trotted right past the front of camp. One of our guests who had been with us for eight nights and had spent every hour of daylight out on game drives decided to sleep in on the morning of his departure, and was wonderfully surprised to have the dogs come and visit him right outside his room!
At the moment, we think that the Chitabe area may have some four different packs of wild dog. However, it appears that the females are bouncing between the males in the various packs, which has made the identification of the packs rather difficult. We’ve managed to take a multitude of photographs which will help sort out who's who and what the various packs are up to, but it is most likely that some of the dogs are simply “migrating” to different packs. Working together with the Botswana Predator Conservation Project, we should be getting some feedback that will enhance our understanding of the current pack structures. We are also in the process of purchasing cameras with built-in GPS modules, so that when one photographs a predator, not only will we be able to identify the individual, but we’ll be able to pin point their location, which will further enhance our abilities to determine home ranges and territories etc. Our current predator monitoring programme includes wild dog, leopard, lion and cheetah.
On another morning, Gordon located three leopards that appeared to be involved in a territorial dispute and some exciting interaction was viewed.
Not to be outdone by the leopards and wild dogs, the lions of Chitabe have also been very active this month. The Tsame Pride, currently six in total, has been encountered several times and often with full bellies, so obviously its members are successful in their hunting. The area is also currently home to the Chitabe Pride and the Malabantle Pride. Again Lediba was the place of action as the Chitabe Pride walked through the camp in the wee hours of the morning. The guests in Tent 2 were able to view lions walking right past their room, from the warmth of their beds, and the guest in Tent 3 had to be collected by vehicle as the lions decided to have a rest right in front of his room!
The “proverbial” stork came to visit Chitabe and we had a wonderful surprise. Anthony managed to get a glimpse of five cheetah cubs which were recently born. He was thrilled to report the good news to everyone that all cubs seem healthy and thriving.
The general game in the area has been superb with herds of zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, tsessebe, kudu and impala being abundant. The buffalo have also returned and the guides have found herds of 1000 plus, especially around the Gomoti area. Speaking of large herds, the elephants are also back and loads of them in both breeding and bachelor herds are to be seen.
Our evening drives, which return after sunset, have also been productive and our guests have seen genets, civets, wild cat, lesser bushbabies and about five different sightings of serval, which is always a treat. On the subject of wild cats, BB watched an interaction with lions that were trying to harass a wild cat, but in a flash, the wild cat managed to dart away from the pride of six - to the relief of BB and his guests.
On the birding front we had some great sightings of wattled cranes with flocks of 20 and more being seen on a regular basis.
Phinley, Ebineng (Ebs), Luke, Barbeton (BB), Anthony and Gordon all welcome Duke, who has joined our guiding team and is simply loving the area and the “energy” of Chitabe.
“Excellent venue! The staff are extremely friendly and passionate about their work and proud of their country and culture. The guides are very knowledgeable and the teamwork between them is absolutely impressive! What a pleasure to go on the game drives - Ant, you are the best!”
“Thank you so much for everything! Our stay has been beyond expectations and the staff have been perfect. We will miss our new friends at Chitabe, but hope we can return one day with our families! Highlights…where do I begin… Gordon was the perfect guide! We saw everything we asked him to see, he had amazing knowledge about everything we saw and asked and had fun!”