In this week’s episode of Safari Stories, Jomi and Hadley are back in Botswana and reflecting on an incredibly productive time spent at King's Pool Camp in the Linyanti Wildlife Reserve of northern Botswana.
In order to reach Kings Pool, we flew by caravan, a 12-seater short range aircraft commonly used to transports guests in and out of camps in remote areas. The flight from Qorokwe was nothing short of astounding. We had to pick up and drop off guests from a couple of other camps en route to King's Pool and flew over Chief Island, the Jao reserve and Vumbura Plains before seeing the Selinda spillway from the air--a water channel that is fed by the Kwando river or the Okavango when water levels are high.
The Linyanti Wildlife reserve is a unique combination of dry savanna and Mopani woodland and wet riverine thickets, open floodplains and the Linyanti marsh or swamp. The greater Linyanti marsh is fed by the Kwando river to the north and west and flows into the Chobe river and eventually becomes part of the Zambezi river system. As this area is along a fault line known as the Linyanti fault, tectonic plate shifts have caused the water to sometimes flow in different directions in the river system, historically flowing east but sometimes getting backed up by rifts and flowing west. This has resulted in a very large marsh known as the Linyanti to be formed.
Above: You can clearly see natutral division between the dry Mopane woodland and the wet Linyanti marsh
After flying in from Qorokowe, our safari guide, Tsholo, picked us up and drove us to the beautiful King's Pool camp--the first safari camp Hadley ever visited. We discuss how Hadley’s first ever safari guides at King's Pool back in 2005, who also happened to be Jomi’s first trails guide mentors in 2013, spoke so passionately about this area and what makes it a wildlife haven for many species--most notably large congregations of elephants.
Above: Jomi and Hadley in King's Pool camp's beautiful main area, which sits right atop the Linyanti marsh
We headed out on our first game drive with Tsholo who surprised us by bringing us to the edge of the marsh and then accompanying us on a very memorable helicopter flip (!) over the swamp and river system, where, from a unique perspective, we were able to watch elephant herds feeding, hippos out of the water, a couple of red lechwe bulls fighting, crocodiles and lots more. We got to truly appreciate the size of this river system from the sky, maintaining enough distance from the animals so as not to disturb them. Kudos must go to the helicopter pilot, who did an excellent job.
Above: The beautiful views and perspective offered from the helicopter as we flew above the Linyanti marsh
Above: All smiles with our guide Tsholo and our heli pilot after we touched back down after an amazing heli flip!
Above: A beautiful male Red Lechwe, standing in the open floodplains. ©Hadley Pierce
After this helicopter excursion we drove down to a main channel along the river and, as the sun was setting, were able to watch as a large herd of elephants in various family groups crossed through the river to make their way back into the Mopani woodland, where they mostly spend their nights during the drier and hotter parts of the year.
Above: Click on one of the above photos to see the different family groups as they crossed the river. ©Hadley Pierce
The next day we were fortunate enough to find a pride of lions who were still active and interacting with one another. After spending a little bit of time with them, we realized that they had been busy feeding--they really stank of dead meat. Nearby, we spotted some vultures and our guide Tsholo expertly navigated us into a thicker part of the riverine habitat where an elephant had died, evidently of natural causes. One of the younger lions was still busy feeding on it, though the carcass was old and decomposing with many maggots. The lion seemed unperturbed though, feeding on one of the last bits of decent meat along the front leg. We managed to avoid the bad smell of the carcass by positioning the car upwind and watched this young lion, followed by another member of the pride, feeding on the carcass for the best part of an hour.
Above: A lion sniffing at the front leg of an elephant carcass. ©Hadley Pierce
Above: Digging in! ©Hadley Pierce
It was an incredible day of safari and a very memorable stay at King's Pool was capped off with a sighting of Arnot’s Chat, a bird synonymous with mature Mopani woodland, and a first for both of us. I (Jomi) have been looking for this bird since living in northern Kruger back in 2013.
Tune in next week to hear about all the action we have already experienced at Vumbura Plains, a camp in the heart of the Okavango Delta
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