Safaris & stories
Africa Geographic
Wildlife . People . Travel

Savuti wild dog encounter – one for all and all for one

We were following a pack of wild dogs to the north of Savuti camp on a late October afternoon.  We know this pack as the Zib pack, their name coming from a local name for a nearby lagoon.  The dogs had all twelve of their puppies with them, and were moving steadily through some woodland.  […]

A Warthog Hunt

In northern Botswana, the rainy season is the time when many animals have their babies.  The carnivores of the area know this, and will often concentrate their efforts on catching these young animals.

The Power of the Pack

I was on a game drive out of Chitabe camp when we came across an intriguing interaction that took place between the local wild dog pack and their pups, and a young female leopard.

Upsizing The Meal

African wild dogs are big predators of impala in most areas where the ranges of the two species overlap.  Whilst the average impala will feed a small pack of dogs for a day, larger packs need more food.  They can try to kill more impala, and this happens quite frequently with successful packs.  They can […]

The Pack Is Back!

The Linyanti concession area in northern Botswana, where Savuti Bush camp is situated, has a successful population of African wild dogs.  Every year, sometime around the end of May, the wild dogs breed.  This involves the digging of an underground den, which is then occupied by the female during the breeding event.  We never know […]

A Little Leopard Learns a Big Lesson

A female leopard that we see quite often killed an impala close to Savuti camp.  After a couple of hours of feeding, she moved off for a while, only to return with her subadult female cub in tow.  The youngster is close to two years old (and not really a cub any longer), and partially […]

A Deadly Game

Working with Andy Biggs on one of his special interest photographic safaris in Botswana, Grant Atkinson and fellow trip leader and photographer James Weis were lucky enough to be witness to this spectacular life and death struggle between elephant and spotted hyaena. The pictures tell a very dramatic tale!

Who is following the sardine run?

This week’s blog post comes once again from the Wild Coast in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. The annual sardine migration that takes place here is happening as I write, so I thought I would describe some of the major predators that take part in this wildlife phenomenon. The sardines are only small fish, but they […]

Leopard behaviour – Information technology

It is quite fascinating to follow a big cat when they are on a territorial patrol.  Last month I was able to watch the Dumatau male leopard as he went about on an early morning patrol.  He is one of the most relaxed of big cats, and takes no notice of our vehicles.  For cats […]

A different kind of line-fishing

When this female pied kingfisher dived into the waters of the Savuti Channel to catch a small fish, she got a bit of a surprise.

Cats and the memory of water

It is often said that cats don’t like water. Undoubtedly, this has some truth in it, but for cats living in and around the wetlands of northern Botswana these days, coping with water is a reality.

Dying To Breed

[slickr-flickr tag=”gasav” captions=”on”] Each year, beginning in April and May, the woodlands of northern Botswana begin to echo to the sound of male impala carrying out their rutting rituals. This behaviour is triggered by shortening day lengths. Normally quiet, the male impala begin to vocalize with loud, guttural grunting calls. This is just the sound […]

Grant Atkinson ponders a Savuti elephant’s year ahead

[slickr-flickr tag =”grantellie”] The northern wildlife areas of Botswana are well-known for their healthy populations of African elephant.  For the past four years, high rainfall has created conditions that are ideal for the elephants that live around the network of waterways made up by the Chobe, Kwando, Linyanti and Savuti rivers.  Most of the individual […]

Lechwe Lechery

It is the time of the year along the Linyanti River in Botswana’s far north, when several of the local antelope species are occupying themselves with courtship and mating rituals and activities. At least the males are, whilst to the casual observer it would seem that in most cases the females are just going about […]

Carnivore Clash on the Linyanti

On a game drive along the Linyanti River, not far from Duma Tau camp, we followed the sound of some monkeys making alarm calls. We came across a spotted hyena, then a bateleur eagle and then not one, but two leopards, moving about in some thick bushes. After half an hour of seeing only glimpses […]

A Meal for One

Summertime in the north of Botswana is the time when impala females give birth to their young. The arrival of these delicate creatures, weighing only 5kg, is obviously of great importance to the impala population and represents their future generations. However, for the carnivores that they share their habitat with, the young impala signify a […]

Food fight

Researchers tell us that amongst terrestrial carnivores, spotted hyenas have a very complex social system. Hyenas live in groups, but don’t always forage that way. More often than not they will move on their own, or sometimes in small groups, only gathering in larger numbers when there is a large food source. They have alliances […]

Working Mothers

Leopards are solitary cats by nature. They are comfortable on their own. Female leopards lead less solitary lives than males, as they bear young and spend much time with their cubs. Male leopards have little to do with raising their offspring. It is sometimes said that the big cats are poor mothers, but it should […]

Running with the Dogs

2010 has been a good year for African wild dogs in some of the most northern of Botswana’s wildlife areas. At least three different packs raised pups in the Linyanti and Selinda concessions. Wild dog movements become somewhat restricted during the denning period. Even after the new pups come out of the den, the packs […]

Blood Brothers

Male lions live in coalitions. Whilst coalition sizes can vary from two males up to seven, the average size over much of Botswana is two. These males are typically related, sometimes brothers, sometimes cousins, and less often, unrelated. Coalitions are usually formed for life. Many of the duties performed by territorial male lions are carried […]

When Is A Big Cat Long In the Tooth?

One of the benefits of spending more time in any particular wildlife area is that you get to recognize individual animals. It is human nature to try to learn as much as possible about these animals. Trying to guess the age of an animal can be an interesting exercise. Reference works indicate that in the […]

Second Time Lucky

In July 2008 I was guiding a group out of Tubu Tree camp, in the Okavango. On a morning game drive, we saw a hyena crossing a deep channel. The hyena was carrying an impala carcass. Seconds after it had crossed the water a leopard emerged from the trees behind. A moment later, another leopard […]

A Day With A Leopard

Earlier this year, I was staying at Mombo camp, and co-leading a photographic safari with James Weis. I was taking a break from driving the vehicle, and Pete Myburg, who was based at Mombo, was at the wheel. We were halfway through our morning drive when we heard via the game drive radio that the […]

Bush Buffet

In last weeks’ submission I wrote about how difficult it can be for predators to catch and subdue their prey, without incurring injury to themselves. Sometimes, the meat eaters get lucky, and a large animal will just die of natural causes. When this happens there is less risk involved, but lots of reward. Just such […]

The Cost Of Predation

Life can be tougher for large carnivores than it may at first appear. Africa’s big cats are equipped with dangerous claws, long, sharp teeth, and powerful muscular limbs to enable them to kill their prey. On the other hand prey animals come with their own defensive armory. Warthogs have sharp, penetrating tusks in their lower […]

In Place Of A Tree

On a recent visit to the Kalahari area, we stayed at a private game reserve situated immediately to the north edge of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. There a few private reserves bordering the CKGR, and the one we visited is called Deception Valley Lodge. The area around the lodge is more wooded than wide-open, […]

Little lion cubs survive big water

It is the end of August as I write this, and all over the Okavango water levels are now receding. A few months back, during the peak of the highest flood levels in many years, I posted a submission entitled “Big water and little cats”. In it I described the situation that the local lion […]

Who is the boss?

Elephants and lions are undoubtedly two of Africa’s most iconic wild animals. As human beings we have a fascination with power, and being in charge. It is not surprising then that I am often asked the question of which one of the two animals is the boss. It is an interesting question and, for me, […]

Cat eat Cat

Leopards are resourceful animals. Whilst on a game drive out of Chitabe Camp, in the Okavango, we spent time following a hungry male leopard. During the course of one morning he tried hunting a variety of other creatures. A herd of impala were too watchful, and caught sight of him approaching. They alarmed, and scattered. […]

The Other Side

These days the Savuti channel plays a major role in the lives of the animals that live alongside it. For the lions of Savuti, the channel provides ample drinking water. On the other hand, the rising waters of the channel create a potentially dangerous obstacle for lions attempting to cross over, particularly for small cubs. […]

Respect those old bulls

Whilst on a recent visit to Seba Camp in the Okavango, I spent some time with Kate Evans and Simon Buckingham. Together they run the charity Elephants for Africa, which supports the research project based there. Kate, who is a researcher by profession, has been studying elephants in this particular part of the delta for […]

Whatever happened to the lionesses with manes

A few months ago I posted a story with pictures about female lions with manes. The lionesses I wrote of were all seen at Mombo, in the Okavango Delta. Since then I have visited Mombo again, and was lucky enough to encounter the pride with the unusual lionesses. However, I only had one brief sighting […]

Mother leopards

Spare a thought for female leopards, and some of the challenges they face in their lives. Leopards are for much of their lives, solitary creatures. Adult male leopards only spend brief periods socializing with females living in their territories. It usually happens when there is a mating bout, and it also happens that they will […]

Of water, trees and nutrients

This year the Okavango River is carrying more water than it has for many years. On a recent flight over the Delta I was struck by the impact the high water levels are having on trees. Much of the water in the Delta moves in big, shallow sheets, rather than in narrow, erosive channels. The […]

A year in the life of an impala

Impala are one of the most common antelope found over much of Southern Africa. This is a good thing, as they are vital components of the ecosystems that they inhabit. One of the important roles they fill is that of prey animal. Leopards and wild dogs prey heavily on impala. Healthy impala are very fast […]

One lion, many habitats

Lions are one of my favourite animals (I have a few) but one of the reasons that I find lions interesting is their adaptability. The diverse habitats that are found in Botswana illustrate this well. In the south and central parts of the country, especially the western half, rainfall is low. Dry Kalahari sands are […]

Who is following the sardine run?

This week’s blog post comes once again from the Wild Coast in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. The annual sardine migration that takes place here is happening as I write, so I thought I would describe some of the major predators that take part in this wildlife phenomenon. The sardines are only small fish, but they […]

Wildlife Watching – please be patient

I am not writing this week’s post from the bush in Botswana but from the Eastern Cape coast in South Africa, where I am on vacation with family and friends. Every year, between June and July, the annual sardine migration takes place in these parts. Millions of small fish gather together in shoals and make […]

My best leopard sighting ever

As it seems that many of the folk who read my blog enjoy reading about leopards, I thought I would share a particularly interesting sighting I had a few years ago. I was guiding out of Chitabe camp with my good friend James Weis. Our morning drive had been quiet and we were on our […]

Substitute Pack

The African wild dog is known to be a highly social animal. Pack sizes range from just a few animals to upwards of 30 dogs in the most successful packs. However, at Mombo camp, deep in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, one wild dog is living a very different lifestyle. This particular female dog was part of […]

Big water and little cats

2010 is proving to be the year of the big flood in the Okavango. Water levels have reached their highest levels in the past 30 years. When it comes to experiencing the annual flood in the Delta, the Jao concession is one of my favourite areas, with its stunning, open floodplains and picturesque palm-tree islands. […]

Botswana’s photographic areas expand

Map, showing NG18 and NG20, courtesy of Wilderness Safaris Some of the most important wildlife areas in Northern Botswana are associated with two major river systems. In the very north of the country is the Linyanti River and its distributaries, the Savuti and Selinda. To the south of these rivers lies the Okavango Delta. Much […]

The banded mongooses of Jao

Jao Camp is situated on an island in the Okavango Delta. The island is not overly large, perhaps a kilometre in length, and not quite that wide again. Aside from the human occupants of the camp, the island is also home to a troop of banded mongooses. Living on the island as they do, the […]

Some lionesses have manes!

There are many opportunities to make a fool of yourself when you’re a field guide. I was once leading a group on a game drive at Mombo, when we came across a pride of lions. Mombo is well known for its healthy lion population. We spent some time with the lions, and I carefully described […]

Are male lions lazy (or just heavy)?

There’s a perception amongst people that lions are lazy. Not only lazy, but that male lions in particular are even lazier, and don’t or can’t hunt for themselves. And there are many reasons for this perception. A scientific paper once claimed that lions sleep 22 out of every 24 hours. But consider that safari-goers most […]

The Return of the Rivers

If you know anything about the northern half of Botswana then you will know that the prime wildlife areas are heavily dependent upon three, life-sustaining rivers: the Okavango, the Kwando/Linyanti/Savuti (which is in fact one river with many names), and the Chobe. In the past few years there has been a marked rise in the […]

Scrambled legs

On a game drive out of Savuti camp one summer morning, we came across a large pool of rainwater that was showing a lot of amphibian activity. As we walked around the edge of the pool, we saw that the disturbance was being caused by groups of toads mating. The water in the pool was […]

Rivers, Boundaries and the Border Boys

The March issue of Africa Geographic features a well-written article by Stephen Cunliffe describing the situation that exists between communities and conservation in that part of Namibia known as the Caprivi Strip. I found the article especially interesting as one of the parks featured in the article, Mamili National Park, lies directly north of the […]

Jackals, humans and the bigger picture

The black-backed jackal is an animal that is heavily persecuted by farmers in many places in southern Africa. The jackal is an interesting and intriguing animal in its own right. Jackals exhibit a range of interesting behavior and social characteristics. They are monogamous. Mated jackal pairs sometimes have offspring from previous years acting as helpers […]

A Little Leopard Luck

On the 5 November 2009 I was on a game drive out of Savuti camp when we got called to a sighting of leopards mating. We don’t see this happening that often, and what was even more unusual was that the pair of leopards were in an open area, which meant we could see the […]

Eyes wide open

It is a well known fact that the two species of oxpecker that occur in southern Africa, the red-billed and the yellow-billed, both feed on parasites that live on or in some of the larger plant-eating mammals that they share habitat with. If you watch them really closely though, you may notice something a little […]

The Rain on the Plain

The Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) in Botswana is a very large protected area, covering some 52 000 square kilometres. Until very recently, the reserve had almost no development within its borders and anyone wishing to visit had to camp in the designated camping sites. These sites are well situated but very basic, even lacking […]

Fish out of Water

Some years ago, I encountered my first many-spined climbing perch at Jacana camp in the Okavango. The perch was out of the water and making its way along the edge of a road. I was completely taken aback to see a fish walking on land! Unfortunately for that particular perch it was also noticed by […]

When Hunting Stops

The wildlife management areas of northern Botswana are divided into parcels of land known as ‘concessions’. These are often located close to or bordering game reserves and national parks and, years ago, most of these concessions were utilised for the purpose of controlled hunting. In the early days, there were more people visiting Botswana to […]

Expectations and the Importance of Rising Early

The area known as the ‘waterfront’ in the north-eastern corner of Chobe National Park is one of my favourite places. On many of the safaris that I lead we routinely spend time on a midday boat ride viewing the numerous crocodiles, hippo, impala, waterbuck, kudu, warthog and elephants that are abundant here. There is an […]

Termites In a different Light

Summertime in northern Botswana is the period for dramatic thunderstorms and rain. It is also the season of heightened activity among many species, including insects such as the fungus-farming termites. These termites, also known as macrotermes, live in mounds. Colonies comprise thousands of sterile workers and soldiers, and a queen and king. Aside from these […]

Cats and Dogs of the Wild Variety

A little more than a month ago, during my stint of acting as a relief manager at Savuti camp, I drove to the east of camp early one overcast morning. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may realise at this stage why my permanent career as a camp manager never amounted […]

Wild, Wild Dogs

One of my favourite animals is the African wild dog. Few other creatures have the energy to spare that the wild dog has. On a recent trip to Chitabe camp in the Okavango, we had the good fortune to encounter a pack of approximately 16 wild dogs late one afternoon. We spent an hour and […]