Wim’s Update from Khwai River Lodge on the Okavango Savute & Chobe Photo Tour:
(Photos Courtesy of UliHB and from back of Dawie’s Camera)
A cold front moved in overnight and we woke to a bitterly cold morning. During the night we heard lions roaring continuously along the river close to us. We went out to find them but as we left the Lodge, less than 500 meters away, we found a young leopard. He was a little skittish at first, and then to our surprise we saw Blue Eyes, that uniquely beautiful female leopard very close by. She was engaged in typical predawn leopard behaviour. She ran around and jumped up any and all vantage points, fallen logs, termite mounds – anything that gave her a good view of the area. She was hunting for whatever would provide a meal and we were able to collect an awesome number of fabulous photos of her activities, initially with spotlights, and then with the rising sun. We were alone with her for almost two hours until another vehicle arrived and we moved on.
We heard that there were lions along the Khwai channel and and started to head towards them when we found another leopard – another female. She was draped across a branch of a beautiful leadwood tree. The tree branches stretched right across the road and it was amazing to look up and see the magnificent animal almost above us.
She moved from branch to branch and we were able to photograph her as she leaped about the tree in search of the most comfortable spot and best vantage point.
Finally she climbed down from the tree and wandered off into the bush.
By now it was almost midday and we had to return to the camp.
Our afternoon drive started with another attempt to reach the lions. This time we reached the Khwai channel where we encountered several herds of elephants that arrived to drink, splash, and play in the water. We watched in awe as different herds met up, greeted each other, and then bathed and drank water together. Herd after herd arrived, and each time the activities started with friendly greetings. It was fabulous and really heartwarming to watch.
It was late afternoon when we finally reached the lions. We watched them as they awoke and greeted each other, interacting with each member of the pride. We had only 30 minutes of daylight left and when the lions started to walk away into the gathering darkness we followed, using our spotlights to capture their progress.
Realising that the lions were on their way to a waterhole we went ahead of them and set everything ready to wait. Near the waterhole we saw impala and other animals. We waited and within a few moments the lions arrived at the water. We switched off our lights as they would interfere with any hunting plans. The next moment the bush erupted with alarm calls that seemed to come from different animals. In the dim light we saw lions hurtling across an open area while dark shadows, maybe wildebeest, fled away from them. We quickly turned the lights on for a second or two and saw animals fleeing in all directions. We switched off the lights and with bated breath we went towards the excitement and tumult. We found that the lions had caught a wildebeest and were still taking it down. The lions were really hungry as they had not eaten for a number of days, and we watched as they were finally able to enjoy a meal.
Whew! By now it was 20:30 and way beyond our return to camp time. We enjoyed a very late supper and then fell into bed exhausted after one of the most amazing days any had imagined – especially when we thought that that cold would mean a quiet, uneventful day.
In the morning we would like to check on the lions again …