So amazing how the animals know their area. For the 3rd year in a row the elephant we know as Sam has moved into camp for the Jackalberry fruiting season. At this time of year Bushman Plains becomes his favorite restaurant. We are sure he even recognizes our different staff members by their voices. Thrilling for us and our guests!
African Wild Dogs Denning
Our Ash Pack of wild dogs has once again denned near Bushman Plains (successful dens 8 of the last 9 years). On 22 June we confirmed the emergence of 11 puppies! The pack will be centered around this den, with the pups remaining in its protective shelter for the next 2 months so July and August will be easy and fascinating for viewing these amazing wild dogs. The last two years once they go mobile the Ash pack has frequently hunted around (and often in!) Bushman Plains as the camp seems to be the epicenter of their range.
Land of the Matotse (Cheetah)
Bushman Plains has become the land of the Matotse (Setswana plural for cheetah). For almost two years we have been blessed with very regular sightings of an exceptional female cheetah, as we have watched her succeed in raising a litter of three cubs. In June the next chapter of life has begun. Super Mom has revealed four tiny cubs, just weeks old. Based on her recent success with the rare feat of raising three cubs to mature status we anticipate she will remain in our rich area and we should have another 18 months of cheetah family life to experience.
Meanwhile the three grown siblings remain bonded together as they transition into adult status. The group is two brothers and one sister. Typically newly independent cheetah siblings will stick together for about six months, then the female will set off on her own and the two brothers will remain together as a coalition.
June was also full of time with relaxed leopards. Once again we have been blessed with an excellent mother, as our resident female has successfully raised two cubs to independence. Closing in on two years of age both cubs are enjoying the soft introduction to life by sharing their mother’s range. At the start of the month it was awesome to see the three full size leopards come together to share a meal in a tree. Once considered fiercely solitary in recent years it has become understood that leopard will sometimes tolerate one another for meals, especially with independent offspring. We expect our resident mother should soon have a new litter of cubs to show off.
We had an inconvenient shift of our impressive coalition of four male lions. Two males from Kwara Concession moved up into our neighboring Vumbura Concession, and our Boys responded by pushing far West within our enormous area. That has led to less frequent sightings since we are spoiled with being in the heart of the best game viewing and rarely venture that far to the West. This is likely a short lived move because this coalition prefers to hunt buffalo, and as the peak dry season months take hold we usually have buffalo herds of 500 to more than 1,000 concentrated near Bushman Plains from late July through November.
Despite our infrequent male lions we did have some wonderful lion sightings with pride females and some very young cubs. The highlight was witnessing cub transport by gentle lion jaws. We also had an interesting early morning sighting of lionesses, who seemed surprised to see that a hot air balloon operates in our NG12 area – it is a rarity in the Okavango.
Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) were secretive and shy when we opened Bushman Plains. The hyena have clearly become comfortable with our presence now, as they often come to curiously inspect who is visiting in our vehicles. We also have an active spotted hyena den in the area. The great thing with a hyena den is it can be used for years at a time, giving us great access to visit and observe these interesting and complex social creatures. The coming months should have some great interactions between hyena and the Ash Pack of wild dogs as they defend their kills against hyenas showing up trying for an easy meal.
Place of the Sable
Pretty much every month we can report the same for the stunning sable antelope. We see them almost daily, and quite frequently can see them right in front of camp as those plains are their favored area. This is a species rarely seen in other parts of the Okavango, and we consider ourselves very luck every day as we marvel at their majesty.
This Report Brought to You by the Bushman Plains Guide/Tracker teams.
Top Row: Dicks and Simon
Bottom Row: Diesel and Langa
In January we took a safari with our staff exploring our area for four days. As two of our Bushman owners, Ola and Dicks, both guided in this area for many years when they worked at Mapula Lodge (the only other camp driving here) they know every nook and cranny of the place, but it was good to show the rest of the team the prime locations in preparation for our September 1st opening.
Wow, did the area deliver! In the first 24 hours we found a pride of a dozen lions, a cheetah, African wild dogs and a huge male leopard – amazing to have the full diversity of major predators. We were not surprised as it seems each time we travel to our prime camp site to bring in supplies lions and wild dogs are seen. We had a great morning with a cheetah that was interested in hunting. Problem for her was a herd of zebra were keeping her in view and often following her. This was already making her very conspicuous to any potential prey but the situation became hopeless
when a side-striped jackal arrived on the scene and began a repetitive warning yelp that frustrated the cheetah. This was very interesting to see as we Bushmen often hear jackals at a distance and can recognize the specific calls that indicate they are trailing a predator. We share this info with our guests and sure some wonder how we can be sure. Now we have the video showing the jackal and cheetah together with the echoing call of the jackal as evidence of this behavior. The stunning sable antelope was a common site for us, observed on seven out of eight game drives and also seen right from our campsite – as were elephant and wild dog. Our area, along with nearby Vumbura, is the most reliable area in the Okavango for observing sable.
Our scouting safari had a big finish when a pack of African wild dogs passed right by our campsite in the late afternoon on a hunting mission. We were able to follow them for a long time as they scoured the bush for hunting opportunities. They had a good run at a herd of impala but came up short and our view finished with them relaxing under a rainbow. As we do our final set up of the camp in August we expect to be able to track the wild dogs to find their den and have the company of puppies as this area has long been a top denning area for this endangered predator.