Day 6 in Botswana – August 15, 2017

On day 6 – August 15, 2017 – we initially observed a banded mongoose digging a trench without safety cones and trench shoring. Clearly, an OSHA violation. Banded mongooses are sociable creatures and are found in troops of up to 50 individuals. The sizes of the territories or home ranges depend greatly on the availability of food and the conditions of the area. The food of a banded mongoose includes a diversity of creatures such as insects, small reptiles such as lizards, amphibians and birds and their eggs. They also take small rodents and scavenge at times. A photograph of the banded mongoose we observed is presented below.

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Subsequently we observed an elephant come down to a pond on the Okavango Delta for a drink of water (see the two photographs below). As you can see, this was a thirsty elephant.

_56A2915.jpg_56A2929.jpgWe also observed an elephant with a damaged tusk (see the photograph below).

_56A3305.jpgSome facts about tusks. First, all African elephants grow tusks, but only some male Asian elephants have tusks. Second, no two tusks are alike; researchers who track elephants use the appearance of the tusks, along with the ears, to identify individual elephants. Third, if a tusks breaks, it will not grow back. Tusks are teeth and just like our teeth, if one is broken, it stays broken. But unlike our teeth, a tusk can continue growing from the root if that isn’t damaged. It’s not unusual to see an elephant with only one tusk because the other was injured to the point that it stopped growing. Fourth, we can tell an elephant’s age by the length of its tusks. Fifth, after big tuskers are killed off by poaching, it artificially creates a larger pool of elephants with small tusks or none at all. In recent decades, several African parks have seen an uptick in the number of elephants being born without tusks.

We also observed elephants giving themselves mud baths (see the photograph below). Mud baths serve a critical purpose for elephants. Under the harsh African sun, the heat and ultraviolet radiation can be deadly, and with their few hair and sweat glands, they have to find other ways to cool off. Romping around in mud or spraying mud on their skin not only cools them down, but provides a protective layer to shield their body from the sun’s rays and it is also relief them from insect bites.

_56A3317.jpgSimilarly, we observed elephants throwing dust on themselves (see the photograph below). Elephants like to play in the dirt, and for good reason! Though their hide looks tough, elephants have sensitive skin that can get sunburned.When they throw dust onto themselves, it is done not only to help cool down but also protect the skin from insects and parasites.

_56A3470.jpgAnd later in the day, we observed a roan antelope with oxpeckers (the birds) eating insects (probably ticks) that it found on the roan antelope. Oxpeckers graze exclusively on the bodies of large mammals.

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Day 5 in Botswana – August 14, 2017

Today, we ventured from the camp at Khwai River, Okavango Delta. The Khwai Tented Camp is located on a community-run concession on the eastern border of the Moremi Game reserve, on the banks of a lagoon flowing into the Khwai river, which acts as a boundary between the reserve and the community area.  Besides the day-time drives which can feature Africa’s big attractions – lion, leopard, wild dog, elephant, buffalo, hippo and giraffe – guests at Khwai Tented Camp are able to explore nature after sunset with a night drive. This activity is not usually permitted in the National Parks or Game Reserves, and allows an up close and personal experience with some of Africa’s nocturnal and / or more elusive animals. The camp also provides the opportunity to explore the great stands of leadwood and mopane woodlands as well as open grasslands and banks of the Khwai River on foot.

The sunrises at the Khwai River, Okavango Delta were gorgeous as the photograph below demonstrates.

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Besides the beautiful sunrise, we also saw an elephant and a leopard.  Botswana is home to one-sixth of the world’s elephant population. They often are found on the seasonal fringes of the Okavango Delta, especially in the Moremi Game Reserve, which forms part of the Okavango. The Okavango Delta forms part of the home range of thousands of African elephants. They migrate in their thousands between the Okavango, Linyanti, Savute and Chobe regions. They are drawn by the need to find water and fresh food. The annual flooding of the Okavango Delta takes place in the driest part of the year when food and water are scarce; so many thousands of elephants pass through the region. There are, however, elephants that are resident all year round. Mostly small bachelor herds that stay around the swamps. These bachelor herds may only join the larger female led herds to mate when a female is in estrus.

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The remainder of the day was engaged with an observation of a leopard. As the photograph below indicates, any type of cat likes their scratching post. The Moremi Game Reserve is one of the best places to observe leopards. Leopards are elusive, and a leopard sighting is always a highlight of a Botswana safari. Leopards will spend the majority of their time on the ground, and not in trees. Leopards will pull their kills into trees, however, whenever needed to keep them out of reach of other predators, which we later observed in Zambia.

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