Tag Archives: Waterbuck

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.


Waterbuck – A shaggy buck story

Visit any of the game reserves in southern Africa and you are sure to see loads of buck of every description, especially impala and springbok.  Whilst it’s great to see the common buck, it’s always a thrill to come across the more unusual ones, like the Waterbuck, which is very distinctive with its long shaggy coat and a target-like white circle arounds its tail.

Perfect white target

We saw some in the Kruger National Park, but they are popping up in various odd locations as they’re being sold to private nature reserves and game farms.

Small herd of mostly females

Waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus) are large antelope that prefer to move around in small herds of between 5 and12 animals.  Males and females tend to stay in separate herds, with the females guarding their calves and young ones.  Males are very territorial and often have lethal fights for dominance in the herd.  The sexes are easy to distinguish as the females are much smaller and don’t have horns.

Magnificent male waterbuck

Their habitat is in dry floodplains and areas close to water, although Waterbuck, as their name might imply, are not aquatic animals like the lechwe or sitatunga.  They do, however, take to water when in danger, even if crocodiles are present.  Waterbuck have a number of predators (spotted hyena, wild dogs, lions and cheetahs), but they have a rather unpleasant smelling secretion from their skin (to waterproof their fur), which sometimes deters their attackers.

A young male waterbuck

Calves are born throughout the year, usually singly, and take about three and a half years to reach maturity. The mother licks the baby after it suckles to remove its characteristic odour and confuse predators.  But in spite of this, they have a high mortality rate.  Numbers are kept up by females mating within six weeks of giving birth, and calves are born after a gestation period of about nine months.

A young male waterbuck

Waterbuck eat grass, fruit and leaves and drink a lot of water.  If they can escape being part of the food chain, they can live up to fourteen years.