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With Martins World Travel

My last month’s article concentrated on the rich animal and bird life of this unique area of Africa. Now it’s time to divulge the incredible predators we viewed on the same trip, very close up and personal, with excellent guides to ensure our safety.

Guides at our remote lodges and camps are renowned for their professionalism and knowledge. They understand the Okavango like no other and can quickly predict the moods of the rich wildlife which surrounds us… often just a few yards away.

When viewing predators like lions, leopards and hyenas often so close you can smell them the best approach is in a purpose built 4×4 vehicle, open sided and open both front and back. A canvas roof acts as a sunshade. By keeping still and quiet when in the close company of lions and leopards these powerful predators appear to ignore the contents (us) ! And view the overall exterior as nothing of interest to them .. thankfully.

We slowly approached a mature female leopard resting in a tree after consuming her previous nights  kill. A reed buck was almost totally consumed, hung up in the same tree and well out of reach of the next predator down the chain… spotted hyenas. A vulture glided low overhead and she snarled in its direction just yards from us but about 12 feet up the sturdy tree.

On another occasion we came across a huge older male lion that was resting next to a dead elephant. Our guide said the elephant would only recently have died of natural causes and the lion would feast on the carcasses for about 3 days.

Lions like fresh meat and once it starts to smell as it rots quickly in the heat the lion will move on to find or take down fresher meat.

This lion allowed us to approach very close and we filmed and photographed him as he laid on the ground with a bulging belly full of prime elephant meat and hardly able to move.

When he chose to move away the hyenas, jackals and vultures would quickly move in and take their fill. Nothing is wasted in nature.

On one of our morning “drives” we were covering various trails and bush that ranged from dense to open scrubland. We noticed a few zebra and giraffe feeding and suddenly their demeanour changed to one of apprehension. As they quickly moved out of the area two huge male lions moved purposely towards us coming as close as just a few feet. They appeared to be two fully mature brothers. The fact they hunted as a pair and very successfully too was confirmed by their stunning condition. The lead male had a thick black mane whilst his no less impressive companion had a lighter coloured mane. They walked right by us as if we did not exist and then settled down to rest in the shade of an acacia bush just a few yards from us.

Cutting off trail through scrubland and the occasional termite mound and heading towards a thick patch of trees and bushes our guide spotted a young leopard, a 2 year old female, and she was obviously searching for a kill. She moved effortlessly and quietly through the vegetation stopping occasionally and marking her territory on her way. She passed very close to us emerging as if out of nowhere. Her coat was beautifully marked and she was in absolute prime condition. Our guide informed us that leopards would often lie on a tree branch waiting for prey, particularly the Marula Tree whose flowers attracted many an unwary antelope when the flowers dropped to the ground. A favourite food source but sometimes with deadly results.

On our bush walks our guide always looked up towards the overhanging branches to ensure a hungry leopard was not lying in wait in search of its next meal. 

Our expert guide viewed a set of tracks that held his interest and we followed them along a trail to the point where they disappeared in the marsh grasses. He recognised the paw prints as Hyena tracks and slowly drove our vehicle over the scrub and towards an old termite mound  that had dense vegetation around it. His sharp eyesight and vast knowledge had led us right up to the den of a Hyena family right on the edge of the marshes. An adult female emerged and wandered off in search of a meal and only a few moments later a young cub came out and looked around.. all the while viewing us with total indifference.

Prey species are plentiful in and around the vast Okavango Delta an area covering up to 20,000 square kilometres when water levels reach their annual peak. Year round water is the key to why nature is so bountiful and even when the system slowly shrinks to a third of its size game and the predators that prey upon them are always here to be found.

Warthogs can be very tough to tackle due to their speed, aggression and razor sharp tusks. They are often found in small family groups with mothers being highly dedicated to their numerous offspring. Their sociable disposition to each other belies their power and even leopards and lions are cautious about tackling adult warthogs. Warthogs have very sharp and dangerous tusks that can cause serious injury and even death to a careless predator. A cornered Warthog is a creature to be reckoned with.

Various species of antelope form the main food for these stunning predators. Southern Reedbuck, Tsessebe, Red Lechwe, Impala, and the biggest being the Greater Kudu.

Bigger game such as zebra and blue wildebeest roam from one grassy wetland to another and herds can number up to a hundred animals of all age ranges.

Fit adult elephants are rarely taken down even by big male lions but the young are occasionally targeted. It is possible to see a solitary female with her calf but it is more common to find a herd of a dozen or more strong always led by a mature matriarch with a few huge bull elephants watching over the herd.

Our chosen lodges provided us with exclusive wildlife viewing at its very best, plenty of varied wildlife, and without the crowds. We viewed wildlife in all its natural glory and as it should be seen. Xugana and Shinde Lodges deep in the Okavango Delta provide the true wilderness experience but with very high standards of comfort, food and with a friendly personal service.

The Botswana Government places huge emphasis on their excellent Guide Programme. After a university course students then spend 3 years “in the field” with qualified guides before taking a final exam. Our guides were superb and a fountain of knowledge on every facet of the Okavango Delta… Jakes, General, Zam and Elline made a great trip incredibly special.

Martin J Founds,

Martins World Travel.

Market Place, Bolsover
Tel 01246 823763
Knifesmithgate, Chesterfield 

Tel 01246 220020


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