A world in one country
During November 2011, I was leading a German tour group to Botswana where we toured the route from Maun through the Okavango Delta and Savute to Chobe and eventually ending in Victoria Falls. (see “wildlife & game parks”)
I was pleasantly surprise with the amount of water along the route due to good rain the past year and the floods of 2009 – 2010 in the Angolan highlands. Northern Botswana has been literally transformed, many would say beyond recognition, into a much wetter landscape; and almost everywhere there has been an explosion of vegetation growth – ample sustenance for the country’s rich wildlife populations.
The most amazing aspect was the Savute Channel, which has a history of flooding and drying up over the past 100 years and not flowing since 1982. It is here where lions turned to hunting elephants followed by an explosion of hyaena numbers which resulted in the most incredible battles between lions and hyaena. Two famous films about these battles are “Eternal Enemies” and “Ultimate Enemies”.
This sandy remote area of the Chobe National Park is now revivified, with the channel bringing life-giving water to the Mababe Depression and the Savuti Marsh, creating excellent conditions for large herds of antelope, and accompanying predators. This newfound abundance has brought elephants, hippos, crocodiles, buffalos, zebras, wildebeest and a rich bird life to the marsh which could be compared to the Serengeti and Masai Mara.
For any wildlife photographer this is a dream and your biggest challenge is to keep those camera batteries loaded otherwise you will miss that magical moments when the unexpected happens.
One morning in the Moremi Game Resreve, we saw how a medium sized crocodile caught a young sitatunga or marshbuck (Tragelaphus spekii), followed by a huge struggle where the “crying” buck eventually managed to free itself and to run with only three legs (one leg badly mauled) to the water’s edge. It stood there in agony and shock for a few minutes and then wandered off in the reeds. The next moment a leopard, which we saw some minutes before the crocodile / sitatunga struggle and who was all the time watching this spectacle, darted out of the bush, chasing the sitatunga back into the water. This time the buck managed to escape because running in crocodile infested water is not really a leopard’s favourite pastime. The leopard turned back and started licking itself dry a mere 5 meters away from our vehicle. This all happens 20 – 40 meters away from us and the whole episode lasted about 20 minutes. This wildlife drama was watched by a whole herd of sitatunga, some waterbirds, the 8 of us in the vehicle and surprisingly another leopard behind our vehicle lying between the reeds.