Botswana June 2023 – Part 4: Mombo

Friday 9 June 2023 – San Camp to Mombo: Roger

At 0800 after a leisurely breakfast and bags packed we headed off for our last game drive. All was pretty quiet apart from a few mobs of wildebeest heading back from the nighttime safety of the salt pans to the grasses and water holes. We witnessed a big bird (kori bustard) getting airborne, all 23 kg of it. The odd springbok, zebra and many jackal moved around the plains. Close to the airstrip we came across a pearl spotted owlet sitting in a tree.

Arriving at the airstrip, several vehicles arrived from other camps; a couple of Mack Air Caravans landed with lots of people disembarking to be distributed to the local camps. We boarded along with 3 others and pretty soon we were airborne on the 45 minute flight north to Maun.

On arrival we parted with the brat pack as they headed off to catch their AirLink Flight to Johannesburg and then home to NZ on a variety of airlines. Having said our goodbyes,  Sylvia and I were escorted to a lounge for the three-hour wait for our flight to Mombo.

Wait over, we headed off through security then boarded another Caravan along with 10 other people for our flight northeast to Mombo. We touched down at Tubu Tree Camp strip to drop some people off before flying low at about 500 ft for the leg to the Mombo strip.

On arrival Reuben, our guide, picked us up and took us to Little Mombo camp, which is attached to Mombo. We headed to our tent, dropped off our stuff and were given a tour and instructions on how everything worked in this somewhat over the top tent. 

Baboon break-ins are a big problem here so they had to redesign the door locks to keep them out. However they have worked out that they can just rip the fly mesh and open the locks on the shutters to break in. They then head straight for the lounge where the goodies are kept; they even open the fridge and grab peanuts, biltong and other goodies before heading back to the trees. The camp has a guy with a big stick on baboon patrol most of the day.

After afternoon tea we headed out on our first game drive. Warthogs, giraffe and impala, were prominent, digging and grazing as they roamed the plains. We stopped by a waterhole as the sun set to have a drink as a giraffe spread its legs and bent its front to get its mouth into the water.

We made our way back to the camp arriving after dark in time for drinks by the fire before heading in for a very tasty dinner and an adventurous nights sleep Sylvia will fill you in on.

Saturday 10 June 2023 – Mombo Camp: Sylvia

At 5:30am Reuben knocked on the door to wake us up. He needn’t have bothered as we had been well awake for several hours with hyena calling, laughing, screaming and crunching on bones right outside our tent. It is always exciting to hear these types of noises in the bush but I would have liked a little more sleep.

At 6am he was back to escort us to the fire pit at the main area of camp for a light breakfast before we headed out at 6:30am. From the fire pit we could see buffalo and a number of hyena on the floodplains in front of camp so we started the morning drive there. Within just a few minutes we were following about 15 hyena as they chased a warthog, who eventually ran into a hole, then about 5 minutes later ran out again, seemingly having forgotten the hyena were there. He backed into another nearby hole and eventually the hyena gave up but then started harassing an old buffalo and cornering him in a bush.

Hyena have become the dominant species at Mombo with three clans of about 40 having divided the concession into three territories. They have started doing some of their own killing as well as scavenging and have apparently used this technique to successfully hunt buffalo. Buffalo need to drink and they keep them in one place during the day until later at night they get dehydrated and become easier to kill.

We eventually moved on and had a lovely morning spotting numerous different animals and birds. Probably the most notable was a hyena with a badly damaged mouth lying in the sun. We returned to camp, passing the spot where we expected to see the hyena still guarding the buffalo but he had obviously gotten the better of them.

After a delicious brunch we headed back to the tent for a bit of a break. We had arranged massages during the siesta time and also walked the boardwalk  to the main Mombo camp to see the changes since the new camp was built. It is all very flash with pizza oven and a new gym and spa area but it retains its Mombo charm.

After our high tea, we headed out and pretty soon heard on the radio that a leopard had been spotted. We found her just climbing down from her spot in a tree, stalking a nearby impala. Leopard are incredibly patient they way they stalk their prey but in this case she was unsuccessful and after watching her for a while we continued our drive. She was obviously completely unperturbed by us. At one point she walked very calmly right underneath the vehicle.

Having safaried here a lot we are now focusing on learning more of the birds and starting to notice different animal tracks and behaviours which is interesting. We spotted lots of the usual animals and enjoyed a pleasant afternoon before heading back to camp for dinner and an early night.

Sunday 11 June 2023 – Mombo Camp: Roger

After breakfast by the fire we headed east with Reuben looking for the wild dogs. As we headed along the tracks in the soft sand Reuben kept a keen look out for dog tracks. Most of the tracks were dominated by hyenas, which had even followed the wild dogs when we did come across their tracks.

Heading southeast we came across the old buffalo herd hiding in some trees. These are the old bulls that are the grumpy old men of the buffalo world. Kicked out of the main herd they hang out together until they get really old then they go it alone and can be really unpredictable and dangerous. I encountered one of these in South Africa a few years ago ending up in a him or me situations.

We continued south across land that had been recently scorched by natural fires that self ignite in the soil here from time to time to allow fresh growth to come away. We ran into a pack of hyenas sleeping on the track, then headed into an area full of candle pod acacia trees, some with little bean-like pods on them, all having sharp thorns. Here we came across a heard of grazing elephants picking and chewing away at these thorny plants, ensuring they didn’t eat too much from any particular plant.

Heading across the flats from there we rounded a scrubby termite mound to find a pride of 11 well-fed looking lions lying in the shade and digesting their recent meal. Zebras and other game continued to graze at a safe distance as though they had not a care in the world.

Next stop was by the water which is rapidly encroaching on the land from Angola. Here the brew kit was produced as we watched a crocodile’s eyes break the surface of the water from time to time. A rather game reed buck stood on a nearby island.

There are so many colourful birds here, many of which are very small. We are  endeavouring to photograph as many as possible and will do a separate post with all their names for those that are interested. They are quite challenging to shoot as they fly really fast and don’t sit still for too long. Getting out of the vehicle and sneaking up on them is not allowed.

We headed back to the airstrip and picked up the dog tracks again but did not come across them. Continuing on through scrubby and occasionally forested country we observed many more giraffes, elephants, impala, warthogs and the odd kudu.

We rounded a corner to see tables and chairs set up under the shade of a big tree, along with kitchen and bar. As we sat and had lunch a herd of elephants crossed the water 150m away from us, stopping for a drink and a wash on the way. This was followed by a dust bath at the other side.

While writing this during the siesta time Gee Gee, one of the many delightful staff members here, knocked on the door to inform us that Alex, the Operations manager for Wilderness, who we had chatted to over the last couple of days during a brief visit they made to the camp, had shouted us a 30-minute helicopter ride over the concession this afternoon. Arriving at the helo we were pleased to see the doors lying on the ground by a bush. We boarded and the pilot, a chap called Dylan, from Marseille in France, gave us some instructions, strapped us in, and off we went for an amazing flight over the Delta. He explained how there are just three animals that make this place work: termites that build the mounds that turn into islands, hippo’s that keep the waterways open, and elephants that spread the seeds from one place to the next.

We flew at about 300 feet, sometimes dropping lower to get a closer look at various animals, including a hippo making like a submarine as it walked across the bottom of a deep pool. There were hundreds of animals and flocks of birds spread out over the delta. The spontaneous combustion fires, of which there had been many over the summer, had played their part in sparking fresh growth from the seeds in the soil. We saw the deep channel which brings the water into this part of the delta surrounded on each side by thick papyrus plants.

After the flight Rueben picked us up and we drove to an open plain for the mandatory sundowner as the sun set to the west.

Monday 12 June – Mombo: Sylvia

The sky was speckled with clouds this morning making for a particularly beautiful sunrise, the red orb of the sun streaked with grey. It was also quite windy and from time to time we could see big clouds of dust billowing.

After the usual light breakfast we headed out with Reuben, driving southwest along the incoming waters that are bringing the floodplains here back to life. It seems the zebra were having a convention today – we saw huge herds of them all heading to the water to drink. We meandered our way along the plains spotting lots of the usual game and some great bird life. We saw several areas filled with small sand mounds, signs of the burrows of mole rats.

We stopped for morning tea at the southernmost point of the concession that is drivable. Further south it is all water, broken up only by small islands, all initially formed by a termite mound. Three bull elephants grazed peacefully just across the water from us, a huge herd of buffalo was moving in the distance, giraffe, red lechwe, zebra, fish eagles and many other water birds were unfazed by our presence as we stretched our legs.

Heading back to camp we came across a family herd of elephants. One of the teenage males thought about challenging us for a few minutes but eventually crossed the road and let us pass.  A bit further on we came across a small group of hyena, one lying right across the road, and a young one begging its mother for food.

Back at camp we enjoyed another delicious brunch and a luxuriously long siesta before the afternoon activities started.

In the afternoon we headed west driving alongside the water before heading through into the wooded area. At one point we came across an area filled with dead camel-thorn acacia trees. Apparently this area once used to receive the flood waters but doesn’t any longer. We spotted a magnificent martial eagle soaring in search of prey, then perching atop a tree and posing beautifully for pictures. We stopped for a while at the hyena den to watch two young hyena pups playing with each other, two older hyenas on watch duty sleeping nearby. At one point we came across a group of very cute young giraffe grazing and playing under the watchful eyes of their mothers. While we enjoyed our sundowner drinks clouds of dust billowed where a warthog was busy cleaning out his burrow.

On our return to camp we were escorted down to the main Mombo camp for a boma night, where the staff entertain us with songs and dances that represent the different cultures of the country and we get to sample some of the delicious traditional food. We had some great chats also with some of the other guests here before retiring for the night.

I am a bit sad that today will be our last full day here. We return to Johannesburg tomorrow, where I will work for the next few days. Still, I have replenished my memories of this wonderful place where red billed spurfowl, seemingly with a death wish, run frantically along in front of the car before finally flying off or stepping off the road, where the smell of wild sage fills the air, where the sunrises and sunsets are impossibly red, where giraffes peep at you, their heads towering over the acacia bushes, where the people are incredibly warm and friendly and the service is outstanding, and where the nights are punctuated by the tinkling of painted reed frogs, the grunting of hippos, the haunting laughter of hyena and the odd lion’s roar.

12 thoughts on “Botswana June 2023 – Part 4: Mombo

  1. Marie Carmen et Rémi says:

    merci beaucoup pour avoir partagé ces images cartes postales!!!

    Que du Bonheur!!!

  2. Stan says:

    Auto correct: Glamping I meant

  3. Stan says:

    Now that’s what i call clamping. Nice trip

  4. Billy says:

    What a fantastic experience.

  5. Qedric says:

    Thanks for sharing this and your other stories – those ‘tents’ look a little shabby… did you see any snakes?

  6. Ross Endicott-Davies says:

    Another great post Roger and Sylvia. Sounds absolutely amazing. Loved the helo photos too.

  7. Thank you for these incredibly detailed blog posts. I’m glad you had another successful trip and I hope that you feel restored and inspired to come back again soon. We look forward to planning your next African adventure.

  8. Rosie says:

    What a fabulous account and photos. Thank you Sylvia and Roger. Any baboon robberies at your tent?
    Very sad to be your last trip to Botswana Sylvie. It has given you, and family, so many wonderful hours of communing with African Nature.
    Was Reuben the same guide we had? He looks very familiar?
    Looking forward to many more exotic adventure accounts that make us feel like we’ve been there with you.
    Where next? Xxx

  9. Trevor REID says:

    With the amazing photos and descriptive writing I really felt like I was there.

  10. Stuart Hayman says:

    Excellent photos thanks

  11. Alister Johnston says:

    shame the camps are rather rough!!!

  12. Victoria James says:

    Another great blog. Love all the giraffes and the hyena are not what I expected. Looks like it was a great time.

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