Tag Archives: Botsalano Game Reserve

Eland – S A’s largest antelope

I blogged a while back about our visit to the Botsalano Game Reserve near Mafikeng in South Africa.  This great little reserve is home to the region’s largest antelope, the Eland, where sizable herds can be seen.  We were very excited to have an opportunity to get relatively close to these magnificent animals as they are normally extremely nervous and don’t let you anywhere near them for a photograph.  We have previously stalked them on a friend’s farm, hoping to get close enough for a photo or two, but they picked us up every time and took off into the bushes before we could say “Jack Robinson”. 


The dry bushy veld around Mafikeng appears to be the ideal habitat for Eland, although they are quite adaptable and can also be found in mountainous grasslands (we’ve seen them high in the Drakensberg) and in woodlands, where they live on grass and leaves.  They do need plenty of water and will drink regularly when it is available.


Eland are distinguishable by their straight, twisted horns which grow up to 60cm in length.  Males are sometimes more grey in colour, whilst females tend to be golden brown.  Both sexes have a dark brown ridge of hair running along their backs.  Males have distinctive humps, almost like the Brahman bull, and can weigh up to 700 kgs.  Females are slightly smaller, coming in at about 450 kgs.  They breed throughout the year, with a single calf being born after a nine month gestation period.


Like Kudu, Eland can jump over high fences or obstacles with ease.  Clearing heights of two meters is no problem for them when they feel threatened.  Their only natural enemy is the lion, but they remain an extremely nervous breed even when faced with non-threatening situations.  In the wild they can live up to twelve years.  Males can be aggressive towards each other and compete in major battles.


It was wonderful to sit in the hide at Botselano and watch the Eland come down to the waterhole in great numbers.  They certainly are very regal animals and it was such a privilege to spend time observing them.


Botsalano Game Reserve

I blogged a week or so ago about the Black wildebeest at Botsalano Game Reserve near Mafikeng in South Africa.  This was such a lovely stop over that I thought I would tell you more about it today.  We stayed there on our way to Botswana as it enabled us to have an early border crossing at the Ramatlabana border post, which is only a few kilometers away.  Not only was the camping and game viewing excellent, but the border crossing proved stress-free and easy, unlike some of the busier and more popular border control points further north.

Campsite at Botsalano Game Reserve

We opted to stay in their bush camp called Kukama and not in the public campsite that is near the gate.  There is nothing wrong with the public site, but we have been spoilt over the years preferring wild and isolated camps where game wanders freely around us.  The site had a stone shelter and a very basic open air shower which we had to share with one of the locals – a leguaan.  He was very obliging about letting us use it!

Water monitor in our shower

Frankly we were amazed at the amount of game in the reserve.  We saw far more there than in the popular Hhluhwe and Umfolozi game reserves in Kwazulu Natal, which is strange because one hears more about these flagship reserves than Botsalano.  Granted Botsalano is off the overseas tourist route, but for sheer numbers and variety, plus having two of the Big Five (buffalo and rhinos), I would say that Botsalano deserves more attention.  So if any South Africans are wondering where to go for a few days of magic camping, this is the place!

Beautiful Waterbuck

The birding in the park was also pretty good, especially when we sat at the waterhole.  From the elevated hide we not only had birds at eye level in the trees around us, but watched as a Secretarybird ambled down to the water for a drink.  Lots of  sand grouse came down as well and in the area behind the hide we saw a variety of waxbills, canaries and starlings.  We also watched two Pale chanting goshawks  making a meal of a dove.

White rhinocerus

White rhinos breed well in the park and so do Eland, which we saw in great numbers.  One only hopes that greedy poachers won’t get their hands on any of the rhinos. This photo gives you an idea of the herds of antelope that head down to the waterhole during the day.

On the way down to the waterhole

There was a good variety of antelopes, like Waterbuck, Blesbok, Kudu, Eland and the smaller more shy ones.  The staff were very helpful and polite too.  We had a giggle when we asked whether there were any aardvarks in the park.  The receptionist said that she had seen them often – one just as recently as two days before.  Knowing that aardvark sightings are generally as rare as hen’s teeth and one is only ever likely to get a glimpse of one once in a lifetime, we gathered that she must have confused the aardvark with a warthog – but then again, I may be wrong and she may be the luckiest lady in the world!  I’m still dying to photograph an aardvark – the one and only time we saw one near Windhoek, we were so amazed at what walked out of the bush in front of us that it disappeared before we had a chance to lift a camera.  Got to be quick about these things….  If anyone out there knows where we are most likely to see one, do drop us a line.

If you’re ever around Mafikeng, do pay this lovely park a visit.  You won’t be disappointed.


Black Wildebeest – The Gnu that’s not the Blue!

Tucked away in a far corner of South Africa, near the bustling town of Mafikeng, is a little game reserve called Botsalano.  Although it isn’t one of the more famous game reserves in the country, it definitely deserves a mention because it is actually full of pleasant surprises.  Not only are the bush campsites there quite magnificent, but we saw an abundance of game that included animals not commonly found elsewhere.

Black wildebeest Botsalano Game Reserve

I wrote a while back about seeing Blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), and at that time we didn’t have any decent photos of the Black wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou) which is a similar looking gnu, but distinguishable by its white tail, smaller build and horns that curve forwards.  Well, our stay at Botsalano rewarded us with wonderful sightings of these animals and we came away with many pictures to add to our collection.  Black wildebeest are typically only found in small areas in South Africa, so it was a treat to see so many of them in one place.

Black wildebeest Botsalano Game Reserve

The Black wildebeest is not stripy like its Blue relative.  Adults are dark brown, whilst calves are a much lighter colour.  Their white tails make them easy to identify, as do their sloping down backs, which are typical of the gnu’s.   They sound similar too, as they also converse with snorts and grunts that sound like the word “gnu”.

A small herd passing by

The open grassland in Botsalano suits them perfectly and there is sufficient water there for their needs.  Their diet consists mostly of grass and dry bush.   We saw them in typical herds of between five and fifty.  These herds usually consist of males, females and young ones, but sometimes male-only herds are formed as well.  Males are territorial and during the breeding season they can be quite aggressive protecting their females and young.

Black wildebeest near the waterhole

Because they are only found in isolated areas, Black wildebeest don’t typically have any enemies and can expect to live for about twenty years.  Unfortunately once they are sold to farmers or relocated to small reserves out of their natural areas, they can fall prey to the same predators that hunt the Blue wildebeest, namely lions, leopards, wild dogs and hyaenas.

Black wildebeest favour open grassland