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Celebrating Botswana’s Independence Day in Khwai

Celebrating Botswana’s Independence Day in Khwai

October 3, 2013

Contributed by Amelia Pfeifle, University of Vermont

There is nothing quite like hopping out of your tent before bed to brush your teeth and hearing the excited voice of Ben pointing out a leopard about 50-60 ft away from your tents. While continuing to brush my teeth, we got arguably the best view of a leopard yet! He looked at us for a minute, and then continued on his way, disappearing behind a bush. It definitely left me with some exciting dreams that night and was just one of many exciting animal sightings this week.

We arrived in Khwai (NG-19) last Saturday on the hottest day of the trip yet! After driving through Moremi Game Reserve, we were able to pick up one of the escort guides, Banda, and head to our campsite near the Khwai River. The river is filled with hippos and a few surprisingly large crocodiles, one of whom we got to see snap up a bird yesterday. Yum.

Earlier this week the greatest wildlife sighting so far in our trip from my perspective finally occurred! We happened upon a pack of African Wild Dogs! I could not have been more thrilled, and had an excellent view of the pack from the top of Franklin, one of our Land Cruisers. The pack included four pups, tiny and cute! It was still hot out and they mostly just sat in the shade, but on the way back it had cooled down and we got to see the pups engaging in some play!  It was adorable, and the similarity to play among domesticated dogs was very cool to see. We had the luck of seeing the pack three days in a row; I could watch them for days!  In addition to seeing the dogs again, we got to see a leopard!  The leopard had dragged an impala up a tree (impressive) and was lingering near-by, and after a minute of searching Sixteen pointed him out to us (he see’s everything!) in a bush. It was a day of exciting wildlife sightings!  This week we have also gotten to see many more elephants, some giraffes, zebras with a foal, wildebeest, waterbucks, hyenas (in the early morning light today!), hyena pups (fluffy and really cuddly looking) and some impala, among other species!

September 30th is Independence Day here in Botswana, and after our morning transect we went into town to the kgotla, the town meeting center. We had the opportunity to see some of the women performing dances in celebration, and that was really awesome! We played with some of the cutest kids I’ve ever seen, made friends with the local resident dogs and after a picnic lunch by the river returned to the kgotla to wait for the soccer (football) game to start between the men from the different camps and those in town. Before the game, the community made a huge massive meal for everyone; there was fish, beef, chicken, potato salad, coleslaw, beets, rice and setampa, a traditional maize dish. The people here in Khwai are some of the most genuinely nice, welcoming and generous people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. They insisted that we all eat first, and the food was amazingly good! After dinner, the soccer game began, and Ben, JP and Mike got to partake in the game while Sixteen bowed out with the excuse that he was wearing pants and couldn’t play. All in all it was a really great day and I feel lucky to have been able to be a part of it.

Dancing at the Independence Day celebrations in Khwai

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Students take part in a big feast at the Khwai kgotla

Villagers in Khwai, lining up to partake in the big Independence Day feast

African wild dog pups playing in the road by the river

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