This month we celebrated Botswana’s Independence Day, and at Mombo we celebrated it with an extra special dinner, most unusually, outside of camp. We last did this on New Year’s Eve, and with the permission and support of the relevant wildlife departments, we held a ‘bush’ dinner in the open area of the soccer pitch, just two minutes across the Tully Tully Bridge and out of camp. Despite gusty winds that picked up towards the end of the evening, the guests had a wonderful time being treated to a talk on Botswana from Dittmar, followed by a dinner that combined grandeur with good traditional cuisine (on a giant braai - barbeque), at a long table next to a roaring fire. We heard the staff celebrating in the distance as they sang in their independence, and the festive atmosphere was certainly carried over to the guests as well.
The lions left us in peace that night, but they made up for it by appearing during dinner one evening back in camp. They had been prowling on the outskirts of both Mombo and Little Mombo for most of the afternoon, and as the guests were beginning to sit down for dinner we received a call from one of the staff drivers to say that the lions were headed from the rotunda towards the office. This caused a great deal of confusion, as chefs and waiters were stranded either at the kitchen or at the front, unable and unwilling to dash between the two areas with frying pans and plates of food, as we were unsure as to the lions’ exact location. Finally, the lions emerged in front of the main area, stalking up and down, emerging from the darkness only to disappear again around the corner. Suddenly there was chaos in front, with several elephants and what appeared to be two prides of lion in a rather dramatic skirmish. The elephants chased and trumpeted, the lions growled and spat, and the guests abandoned their plates to peer through binoculars into the darkness trying to make out what was happening.
In general, the Maparota Pride (currently 11 in number) is doing very well: they continued in their failed attempts to catch a meal in the floodplain in front of camp: one female tried her luck with a warthog but the now very cocky mother warthog and her brood barely glance at the lions as they seem to know that one of the young Maporota boys usually spoils the hunt for the rest. The males of that pride are growing by the day, however, approaching about four years old each, and are starting to show signs of dominance, even trying to mate with the females of the same pride. This month they did manage to kill a baby hippo, and are moving increasingly into new areas as numerous water channels are dropping. They are often heard calling near camp in the early hours of the morning, and have moved into Western Pride territory several times this month as the aforementioned conflict demonstrates.
As for the Western Pride itself, that family appears to have lost one of the two year-old cubs. It could easily have been lost to a crocodile, as the pride spends a lot of time in the swamps following buffalo herds. There have been some fantastic sightings of them crossing through water and playing with each other. On the whole, it seems that despite the threat of crocodiles, other harassing predators such as hyaena also avoid these lions - probably because of Mmamoriri’s (the maned lioness) formidable presence, enabling the family to feed in peace.
The Mombo Boys are continuing to dominate, sharing their allegiance amongst three different prides. They fought and chased an old male out of the area recently, and are still going strong. The Matatha Pride has not been seen too often, occasionally appearing further to the south and looking worryingly skinny. In the Aakuna Pride there is a new, big male, who was seen feeding on a giraffe kill; lastly, there is a new pride emerging of three females and two young males, who tend to hang out in the burnt areas further south.
There have been incredible leopard sightings this month. Not only have we seen Legadema and her cub, finally, who are both doing well, but also Pula frequently, along with Blue Eyes and even a glimpse of Molai. Intriguingly, there have been some new leopards spotted as well: two males and a female who have never been identified by the Mombo guides before. It will be very interesting to see how their presence affects the already complex dynamics of the fiercely territorial spotted cats already in our midst. At this time of year, the leopards are using the sausage trees regularly to sleep in and as a hunting spot as the trees are flowering profusely and attracting impala to the base.
I always mention the encroachment of our resident felines on camp, but there is another ferocious creature that seems to be taking over Mombo, much to the everyone’s amusement. Two honey badgers are apparently making their home near the back offices at main camp, and are often to be seen scurrying around poking their noses through office doorways and growling at anyone who startles them by coming around the corner too quickly. Known to be among the most aggressive animals in the bush, it is hard not to laugh at these honey badgers, their mafia-like demeanour very comical (until you are growled at, and then it is pretty convincing).
The lone wild dog has been getting a lot of attention this month, with many repeat guests singling her out as their most desired sighting. Some Little Mombo guests were even rewarded with a viewing of her from their tent! Unusually, the wild dog was trotting along from Skimmer Island which is opposite Little Mombo. The guides say she has about four territories in this area, and it is true that we often see her covering great distances over the course of a few days, but she hardly ever appears this close to camp. She is moving between five different jackal pairs, and as the jackals are now denning, she is all the more attracted to their little families.
Although there was only one sighting of a black rhino this month, there were a few different white rhino seen: three cows together, two cows with a calf, and one big male, known as ‘Sirondela.’ As ever, it is always wonderful to get even a glimpse of these endangered giants.
So we move into that infamous month of October. As the dust wheels and whirls about us, we look to the coming of the rains in a couple of months with anticipation. The door was closed firmly on winter almost as soon as September the first dawned, and the heat snuck in overnight. Although the customary few drops of rain were felt on September 30th, we wait longingly for the real deluge that comes later in the year, and there are more than just a few cries of ‘Pula’ echoing across the Delta.
Guides in camp: Tsile, Sefo, Cisco, Callum, Doc
Managers in camp: Jemima, Dani, Kirsty, Britt, Dittmar, Cheri