Our Wild Images photographic safari started extremely well partially due to a change in camp to be nearer to the current wild dog den in the Third Bridge area of Moremi Game Reserve. With just a 10 minutes drive from the den we managed to get there every morning before day-break and enjoy the best of the dogs. However, the highlight of the wild dogs came on the evening of the second day when we were waiting and wondering if the dogs would ever get up and hunt. Two of the male wild dogs pricked their ears and locked there gaze on the tree-line.
When we turned to see what had caught their attention I was stunned to see an aardwolf walking across the open savannah. In a split second I realized that the only aardwolf I had ever seen in Moremi in a decade and a half of guiding in the region was about to be killed by the dogs. Thankfully, with astonishing speed and agility, the aardwolf managed to out-manoeuvre the dogs and with a fraction of a second to spare it made it back into its burrow.
That same evening, as everyone was preparing for dinner, our waiter ‘TT’ spotted a leopard that was lying down next to the dining tent. She was totally unperturbed by the human presence and in her own time stood up and strolled through the camp between the tents where the guests watched her pass with amazement. It is hard to fathom why such shy and retiring creatures do this occasionally but the rarity of the behaviour only made it more special to experience. Before departing, Xakanaxa also treated us to a male lion roaring only meters from the vehicle, a serval with her kittens crossing the water, a group of honey badgers going about their business and the local coalition of male cheetah surveying their territory.
Our stay in the Khwai region of the eastern Okavango was equally spectacular from a wildlife and a photography perspective. Too often the guest experience of lions is that of a pride of cats sleeping in the shade but our first afternoon with the lions was anything but boring. One of the Khwai females (a pride of 9 lionesses and cubs in total) and 4 cubs met up with the local male coalition. The dominant male set about attacking one of the cubs and only through vicious defence by the attending lioness did the cub escape serious injury or death. The lioness and the cubs then set off at pace through the bush to escape the inexplicable wrath of the male. The male tracked and chased the females relentlessly for several kilometres, driving them over the Sable Alley river and into the vast mopane veld in the north. The male then returned that evening to the Matswere Hippo Pool where we found him continuing his honeymoon with one of the other females.
The female leopard known as Mosadi wa Mochaba and her cub were finishing up an impala kill when we caught up with her the following evening. After some great photographic opportunities we finally left her and her daughter to enjoy the evening in peace. First thing the following morning we were in the area again in the outside hopes that we would locate her again. Luck was on our side and we spent a fabulous couple of hours with her and the cub on our own while the stalked each other through the grass, tackling each other and frolicking in the undergrowth. The female suddenly became intent on the distant tree-line and when we realised there was a herd of impala. We decided to watch from a distance and hope she would kill rather than pursue her on her hunt and risk causing the impala to drift away.
We had brief glimpses of her in her painfully slow stalk but ultimately the road to Savuti beckoned and we had to leave Mosadi wa Mochaba and her cub to their hunt. On our way out of Khwai we found the old female lioness known as Glass Eye and one of her fellow lionesses that had just killed a young waterbuck. Although we were pressed for time we decided to watch them complete the meal before heading to Savuti. To be continued… Grant Reed