Climate and Landscape
As July approaches we have seen a slight drop in temperatures on our concession and experienced some windy days. June was generally chilly in the early mornings as well as in the hours immediately after sunset. On one of the mornings the mercury dropped to a low of 1° Celsius, with average lows of 3° to 5° in the mornings, rising to 23° during the day.
Animal sightings at Kalahari Plains were very good when compared to the same month last year. Usually the dry season in the Kalahari starts as soon as the first rains come to a halt, and by June the vegetation is very dry – but this time around our first winter month was not that dry because of our excellent rainy season.
Antelope, especially springbok, gemsbok (oryx) and wildebeest were often seen grazing, especially in the mornings, taking advantage of the grasses which were still wet from dew. Those most amazing and majestic creatures, the giraffe, are back in large numbers in the afternoons and mornings, availing themselves of the camp’s water now that their regular watering spots have all dried up.
We’ve also had amazing sightings of bat-eared fox and jackal roaming the pans on a daily basis, especially late in the afternoon, hunting for insects and rodents. These two species appear to get along very well since they tend to mind their own business and when a large predator walks into their area they even warn each other with alarm calls.
The only animal that is still ‘missing in action’ is the honey badger. Usually around this time of year, as the vegetation dries up, they are seen often in the open areas and pans, though they still spend their days in the thickets, only coming out at night.
June was a month of predator sightings! The local Plains Pride had a vicious encounter with a former member who was kicked out of the area by the local dominant male, Lekhubu, and who had joined pride members that had broken away last year. The fight was so intense and vicious it left the old female with some very serious wounds and everyone worried she might not make it. Happily she was seen slowly making her way to the waterhole for a drink on the very same afternoon. Guests were amazed by the show! During this encounter two of the local pride's beautiful cubs disappeared, leaving everyone concerned about what might have happened. Later in the afternoon guides and guests spotted an encounter between the pride and the cubs – but only after a serious search. On arrival from the activity, one of the guests described the sighting as "A sad story with a sweet conclusion."
Otherwise the local Plains Pride has been doing very well in terms of taking care of their cubs and protecting their territory, making a number of kills of mostly gemsbok.
Even though leopard were not encountered too often this month, one of our best sightings was the lone male seen hunting in the Lekhubu Island area. The two male cheetah that are well known for being shy and skittish surprised everyone by being very relaxed when encountered by the guides. A caracal made our sightings list extra special this month after being seen on a drive to the east of Kalahari Plains Camp.
Despite the cooler temperatures experienced lately, we have seen a number of different species of reptiles, mostly southern ground agama and their tracks, all over the place. A lone male leopard tortoise was spotted at the airstrip feeding on fresh grass even though he moved as soon as he noticed our presence. Happily he was photogenic and we managed to take few shots before he ‘dashed’ into the thicket.
Birds and Birding
June was an excellent month for birding with crimson-breasted shrike, greater kestrel, white-backed vulture, white-headed vulture – a most rare and special sighting – southern pale chanting goshawk, fork-tailed drongo, yellow canary, paradise whydah and scaly-feathered finch. The biggest birds in the region, male and female ostriches, are seen all over the open areas.
Star gazing with local guides was just one of the extraordinary experiences guests enjoyed this month.
Amazing experience! Loved the giraffe, lions, sleeping under the stars and the wonderful staff!
Staff in Camp
Managers: Lops, Tshidie, Tuelo, OB
Guides: Fanie, Teko, Alberto
Newsletter and pictures by Lopang Rampeba