Great Wilderness Journey to Africa

0
171

This report details our recent safari called the Great Wilderness Journey.  There are multiple departures of this itinerary throughout the year.

Our itinerary was Xigera Camp, Motswiri, Linyanti, and Toka Leya Camp.  The first three of these camps are in Botswanas Okavango Delta, Selinda concession, and Linyanti concession, respectively, while Toka Leya is on the Zambian side of The Victoria Falls.  We had seven very enthusiastic guests.

A pair of African skimmers fly in tight formation over waters of the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana.  These birds were breeding on sandbanks in Xigera Lagoon, close to Xigera camp.

A pair of African skimmers fly in tight formation over waters of the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana. These birds were breeding on sandbanks in Xigera Lagoon, close to Xigera camp.

During our three nights at Xigera we boated to Xigera lagoon, where we had fantastic viewing of African skimmers flying over the clear water.  Skimmers breed on exposed sandbanks and are rare birds.  We also did a full-day boat trip to the north, passing through a wonderful variety of habitats on the way, some permanent water, and some seasonal.  We saw hippo, elephant, giraffe, crocodiles, and the highlight was a pride of lions moving about near the water’s edge.

A breeding herd of elephants drinks as one from the Linyanti River in northern Botswana.  Rising water levels in this river as well as other rivers in the region benefit wildlife like elephants especially during the dry times of the year.  This image was taken in September, towards the end of the dry season.

A breeding herd of elephants drinks as one from the Linyanti River in northern Botswana. Rising water levels in this river as well as other rivers in the region benefit wildlife like elephants, especially during the dry times of the year. This image was taken in September, towards the end of the dry season.

Some of the lions looked as if they might cross through the deep water channel we were boating in, but they never quite built up the nerve.  Hundreds of waterbirds kept us entertained as we cruised along through the channels.  We had a midday picnic under some shady trees.  Birding highlights of our Xigera visit included Pels’ fishing-owl and Western-banded snake-eagle.

We flew onward to Motswiri Camp for 2 nights where our activities were more physically active, with some canoeing on the Selinda Spillway, as well as some game drives on which we saw elephant and buffalo.

A lioness and her three month old cub shelter from the September heat in the shade of a jackalberry tree.  This lioness was photographed along the Linyanti River in northern Botswana.

A lioness and her three-month-old cub shelter from the September heat in the shade of a jackalberry tree. This lioness was photographed along the Linyanti River in northern Botswana.

Next we flew along the now-flowing Selinda Spillway to the Linyanti concession in the north, where we stayed for 4 nights.  We hadn’t even reached camp when we found one of the Linyanti pride lionesses with her 3-month-old lion cub, but she was stressed and searching for a second cub, which was missing.  I had seen her on my last safari with both cubs, so it was sad to see that one had gone missing.

A pack of twelve African wild dogs setting off on a late afternoon hunt along the Linyanti River, in northern Botswana.  Some of the dogs had noticed a herd of red lechwe antelope in the distance, and were gazing with interest in their direction.

A pack of twelve African wild dogs setting off on a late afternoon hunt along the Linyanti River, in northern Botswana. Some of the dogs had noticed a herd of red lechwe antelope in the distance and were gazing with interest in their direction.

Before reaching camp that evening, we also got to watch a pack of twelve wild dogs on the move along the river.  Aside from these large carnivores, the road provided us with a steady procession of elephant, kudu, baboons, warthogs, impala and red lechwe, all moving about close to the river.

A bull elephant dust bathes in late afternoon sunlight after emerging from the Linyanti River in northern Botswana.  Elephants frequently dust bathe.  This behaviour may serve to help keep them cool by forming a muddy coating on their skin.

A bull elephant dust bathes in late afternoon sunlight after emerging from the Linyanti River in northern Botswana. Elephants frequently dust bathe. This behaviour may serve to help keep them cool by forming a muddy coating on their skin.

This is a great time of year for the Linyanti concession, as the rising daytime temperatures push many animals towards the river, especially from the late morning onwards.  More highlights were to follow.  Many elephant herds were to be seen each day, especially in the afternoons.  Several elephant bulls also visited us in camp.

A female leopard rests on a termite mound with her eight-month old cub beside her.  This pair of leopards were photographed in the Linyanti concession of northern Botswana.  The two cats moved off after some minutes, stopping only to play with one another several times.

A female leopard rests on a termite mound with her eight-month-old cub beside her. This pair of leopards were photographed in the Linyanti concession of northern Botswana. The two cats moved off after some minutes, stopping only to play with one another several times.

Early one morning we came across a female leopard and her cub sunning themselves on a termite mound.  They provided us with excellent photo opportunities and as we had several very eager photographers on board, this was most appreciated.  Male lions at rest the next morning, one called Silver Eye and his coalition partner Romeo were additional highlights.

A male leopard sits on a termite mound, close to the Linyanti River in Botswana.  This male was on a territorial patrol, and had just caught sight of some baboons in the distance.

A male leopard sits on a termite mound, close to the Linyanti River in Botswana. This male was on a territorial patrol, and had just caught sight of some baboons in the distance.

On our last afternoon drive we found a male leopard on territorial patrol.  At first we had some difficulty trying to approach him, as he was continually diverted off his course by a herd of elephants, but then he went up a termite mound and sat down.  Next moment he put his head into a large hole at the base of the mound and two warthogs exploded out of a hole on the other side of the same mound, leaving the leopard standing in a cloud of dust.  If only the other hole hadn’t been there, he may have gotten lucky with a meal.

Apart from spotted hyena, our stay in the Linyanti also turned up some great birds like white-breasted cuckooshrike, rednecked falcon, gabar goshawk, and white-fronted and carmine bee-eaters to name but a few.

Whitefronted bee-eaters line up on a branch close to their nesting colony.  These bee-eaters nest along the Linyanti River in northern Botswana.  In some areas of southern Africa the are two nesting sessions in each season.

White-fronted bee-eaters line up on a branch close to their nesting colony. These bee-eaters nest along the Linyanti River in northern Botswana. In some areas of southern Africa there are two nesting sessions in each season.

We flew again to Kasane where we spent our midday on a Chobe boat cruise, viewing great herds of elephants along the river bank, as well as many crocodiles, buffalo, hippo and scores of birds.  One more very short flight took us to Livingstone where we had a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River and then had a very comfortable night in the luxurious accommodation at Toka Leya Camp.

I said goodbye sadly to the group next morning at Victoria Falls itself, from where they were heading to the airport and home.  This is a great time of year for big game viewing in Botswana and the Linyanti in particular and we were more than pleased with our good fortune with the wildlife sightings on this Great Wilderness Journey.

Grant Atkinson
Specialist Guide – Wilderness Safaris
For more of Grants photography, check out his website.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here