The month of May is a sign that summer in Botswana is officially over and winter is at our doorstep. The first half of the month the weather is still mild but in the last two weeks the beanies have come out and we all sit a little closer to the camp fire in the evenings before dinner. There is something so special about enjoying a glass of red wine around the fire, sharing stories about the day on safari with fellow travelers.
Having not received high rainfall in the summer, the water levels at Duba Plains are not as high as previous years. The water levels are now dropping quickly, and we can already see areas that were flooded last month drying up.
Although our avian summer visitors have left, birding at Duba remains an exciting event all year round. You may have heard of the 111 Club, a challenge to guests to tick off 111 species of birds while staying in the Great Plains Conservation Botswana camps. After victory, they are inducted into the 111 Club and receive a stylish cap and lots of ornithological glory. This month, we have two new members in the Club. Frequently birding is misjudged as a relatively boring activity, but these two gentlemen became obsessed and ended up really enjoying the excitement of spotting new birds each day. The truth is, no matter how quiet the wildlife might be, there are always birds! Look out for the Pel’s fishing owl and Rosy-throated longclaw when you next visit Duba. Well done to Tim and Sanders, and welcome to the 111 Club!
Wildlife sightings this month have been diverse and very exciting. In the past you would be lucky to spot a leopard at Duba and we would only spot this beautiful elusive cat three to four times a year! Things have changed quite a bit, possibly due to the slight decrease in lion numbers as well as the rapid increase in red lechwe. Well, we have been lucky enough to spot leopard nearly every week to two weeks now! And not just a leopard running off into the thick bush, but a pair of mating leopards, a leopard up in a huge sausage tree with the afternoon light creating the opportunity for that perfect ‘leopard in a tree’ safari photograph.
With the onset of winter, the grass has also started to dry and lose its high nutritional content. This leaves the buffalo in the area relatively weak, so the upper hand goes back to the brave, powerful lions. The lions and buffalo have continued their age old battle, with these large swamp cats following the herd of buffalo out in the open and in broad daylight.
Early in the month, the two fully grown male lion brothers were eyeing two sparing red lechwe when suddenly one male jumped up and took down one of the lechwe. He did not want to share his meal with his brother, so the other lion ran across the open plain and took down a buffalo calf walking along with two bull buffaloes. All this happened within a space of 20min and right in front of the guests!
Later in the month the same two males, this time with the two females, selected a bull from the large buffalo herd and spent hours trying to bring it down. It took them two days to finish the meal. Recently, our guests had an action packed day all within a 5 minute drive from camp. One lone wounded buffalo was spotted by one of the lion sub-prides consisting of two adult females and a young male and a young female. They took the bull down in the swamp, and one of the vehicles got stuck in the mud! The rescue team was called out, but the buffalo managed to get up and ran off into the reeds. It took the lions the rest of the day to find him and take him down again, this time just behind the staff village. The next night there was a ton of activity and noise as the hyenas moved in and the lions deserted their kill when they heard the two males from the other sub pride roaring nearby.
Duba has a lot more to offer than just the lions hunting the buffalo during the day. Apart from the incredible photographic opportunities where the lions swim across deep water, there have been excellent leopard sightings as well as some rare, sought after species such as pangolin, bat-Eared Fox, civet and honey badgers. For more information about staying at Duba Plains and joining the 111 club, please click here.