The delightful Machaba Camp, on the fringes of the Okavango Delta, was once again the destination for our latest Leopard ID Project safari, hosted by Completely Unique Safaris (www.CompletelyUniquesafaris.com). After our last trip had yielded 10 different individuals and over 20 separate leopard sightings, we had high expectations of course, but being summer in the Delta, we also knew that the chances of finding anything in the dense vegetation would be tough! Despite our cautious approach, we landed on the airstrip full of excitement and anticipation as we took in the wetland wonderland that is the mighty Delta. Grass as tall as us and densely foliated trees dominated the landscape, and puddles populated by a large variety of water-birds littered the roads. Despite the instant revelation that spotting Africa’s most elusive big cat would be a mammoth task, we took a deep breath and admired the lush surroundings. The Okavango Delta is truly worthy of its recent inclusion as one of the natural wonders of Africa and to be privileged to stand within it is an honour in itself.
We set off for the lodge enraptured by the myriad shades of green that painted the landscape, but before we had time to settle into our seats, we were met by a welcoming party of the canine persuasion! A pack of wild dogs lounged in the shade of tree and, seemingly aware of our excitement, took it upon themselves to frolic playfully in front of us before trotting off to a puddle to engage in some great games of which only they know the rules! Only in the Delta!?
A good start for sure but we were back to look for leopards…. The Machaba concession had one more surprise in store for us before we arrived at the lodge however. A massive apple leaf tree towered above the surrounding vegetation as we drove across what could only be described as a pasture, but something looked out of place amongst the branches. A familiar shape lolled across a horizontal branch 5 meters above the ground enjoying the relief from the harsh Botswana sun. The Machaba female had come to greet us on our return!
A stalwart of the area at about 10 years old, her genetics are rife in the area; a testament to her brilliance as a mother in an area of such high leopard density. Our trip to October revealed various sightings of the camp’s namesake and her young cub and it was as though we never left. Stowed safely beside her, a half-eaten impala carcass swung gently in the breeze as if it hung in a butcher’s shop window. She was satiated for now but we sat in silence and took in the scene, her mottled coat the perfect camouflage to blend with the dappled light filtering through the leaves. Our guide, Custard, told us that she,her now 1 year old male cub, and a male cub from her previous litter had been found feasting on the kill that morning. Although there was no sign of the youngsters, we had high hopes of catching up with both of them that evening!
Blog and Photos by Ben Coley