Discovering the Khwai Part I

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The Khwai River forms the northernmost ‘finger’ of the Delta’s alluvial fan as it stretches outwards to the east. On the other side of the channel lies the Moremi Game Reserve, which combined with the Khwai, offers some of the most incredible game viewing opportunities regardless of the time of year.

After a mere 30 minute flight from Maun I was literally transported into a world which was completely opposite to the arid environment of Nxai Pan where I had woken up that same morning.

The Khwai area is beautiful.

Flying into the Khwai Tented Camp airstrip I couldn’t help but notice the lattices of twinkling lagoons and channels where the water is so clear you can see right to the sandy bottom. These waterways, dominated by day and night water lillies, are home to numbers of hippo and crocodiles as well as a multitude of waterbirds.

Khwai Tented camp Wild Eye Botswana Photo Safari Andrew Beck-32

Large palm islands and large dry land areas break up the waterways and provide support good number of Buffalo, zebra, wildebeest and giraffe.

Khwai Tented camp Wild Eye Botswana Photo Safari Andrew Beck

Khwai Tented camp Wild Eye Botswana Photo Safari Andrew Beck-13

On the floodplains of the Khwai River, Red lechwe, reedbuck and waterbuck and elephant were almost guaranteed on each and every drive and one couldnt help but get the feeling that this was a time of plenty despite the low rainfall for the season and the absence of the flood waters.

Andrew Beck Wild Eye Botswana Photographic safari-4

For me, some of the most beautiful areas were in the marshy swamps where the large trees which dominated the dry islands merged with the reeds, grasses and lilies which dominate these shallow lagoons.

Here a lone lechwe offers a sense of scale as she feeds in the shallow waters surrounded by white-faced whistling ducks, green-backed herons and pygmy geese.

Khwai Tented camp Wild Eye Botswana Photo Safari Andrew Beck-4

This was just our first afternoon with Khwai Tented Camp as our base and I was already in love with the diversity of this concession – and this is still the green season! An ice cold Gin & Tonic overlooking a lagoon signalled the end of the first afternoon but the start of an even greater story…

Khwai Tented camp Wild Eye Botswana Photo Safari Andrew Beck-6

After our sundowners we came across a young male lion who was completely unknown to our guide Dutch. Thats another beautiful thing about this area and many other regions outside of South Africa, the fact that there are no fences means that game is free to move between regions at their will and, given the fact that Botswana has experienced below average rainfall this year, a lot of game was starting to move back towards the permanent water sources along the fringes of the delta.

He had somehow managed to isolate and kill a young hippo calf and was being harassed by a clan of about 5 or 6 hyena.

We sat patiently waiting to see whether the hyaenas would begin to harass the young male as he fed on his carcass beneath a dense fever-berry tree.

Khwai Tented camp Wild Eye Botswana Photo Safari Andrew Beck-8

Khwai Tented camp Wild Eye Botswana Photo Safari Andrew Beck-7

Despite having the upper hand and having made a serious amount of noise in an effort to intimidate the lion, he seemed unperturbed and continued to gorge himself on the fatty meat provided by the young hippo calf. We left them in peace and agreed to follow up on them the next morning…

Surprisingly all was as we had left it.

The only chew-toy the hyaenas managed to get hold of was a branch which one of the younger clan members took great delight in wielding around as if it had some sort of special power.

Khwai Tented camp Wild Eye Botswana Photo Safari Andrew Beck-10

Once again, the lion and hyenas has seemed to reach a stale mate. At least for the time being…

The concession delivered some great birding opportunities with great sightings of broad billed rollers, ground hornbill, paradise flycatcher, Meyer’s Parrot, Grey Headed Kingfishers, Little bee Eaters, Swallow Tailed Bee Eaters, Carmine Bee Eaters, European bee Eaters, Martial Eagle, Rufous bellied and Green-backed heron to name but a few.

Khwai Tented camp Wild Eye Botswana Photo Safari Andrew Beck-12

A full day had passed and I was absolutely loving the experience that the African Bushcamps team were creating for me.

After a compulsory afternoon siesta we headed back out to see whether there had been any change in the ownership of the hippo carcass. As we arrived there was a herd of elephant drinking as a herd of lechwe fed amongst the short sweet grasses.

Khwai Tented camp Wild Eye Botswana Photo Safari Andrew Beck-14

Just meters away lay 10 hyaena and a lion.

Personally I had fully expected the bloated male lion to have moved on but, on arrival, we found that he had somehow managed to procure a young zebra foal in addition to his young hippo carcass.We have no idea whether the hyenas had chased the foal down before loosing it to the male lion or whether the zebra foal simply walked straight into the path of the lion as he rested in the shade.

We will never know.

Regardless, as the sun began to sink below the horizon the stage was set for an intense battle as the lion now lay with the hippo carcass, leaving the zebra carcass beneath a tree a good 10m metres away.

The change in posture from the hyena clan was immediately evident.

Only their heads were held higher than their tails and it was clear that they meant business.

Khwai Tented camp Wild Eye Botswana Photo Safari Andrew Beck-20

They had been hanging around the fringes of the hippo carcass for more than 24 hours at this stage with nothing to show for it.

They were ready to engage…

I really didn’t want to break this blog post into two but we do need to take a dramatic pause so that I can finish editing the video content which i want to share along with the rest of this story and sightings from the trip so please, bare with me and keep an eye on the blog for part two in the new week!

Trust me, you’ll want to see how this story ends…

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About the Author

Andrew Beck

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Very few people can tell you what their passion in life is. Even fewer will be able to tell you that what they do for a living is in fact their passion. My love for the bush and conservation took me on journey which would not only allow me to explore the continent which fascinates me so much, but to share my passion for photography and conservation with others. Be sure to check out my my website and instagram account.

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