Tag Archives: Cheetah

Some days are diamonds

Have you ever had one of those days when just about everything goes wrong?  I’m sure you have.  How about one when absolutely everything goes right?  We recently had a diamond day in Kruger National Park.  We visit parks often and this has to have been our best time ever anywhere.  Let me tell you about it.

Lion Pride KNP

We left our campsite at Satara, planning to make our way slowly to Lower Sabie.  We hadn’t driven far when we saw a pride of ten lions in the bush next to the road.

Lion Pride KNP

The left the grassy area and walked along the road in front of us for about two kilometers.

Lion Pride KNP

Apart from seeing so many lions at one time, we were delighted to watch the young cubs playing games with each other as their parents walked purposefully ahead.  There were about six cubs of various ages, three older lionesses and one male lion.  What a sight that was.  Our best ever close up sightings of so many of these beautiful animals.

Male Leopard KNP

Feeling like things couldn’t get much better than this, we continued driving towards Lower Sabie.  It wasn’t long before we came across a number of parked cars and realized that the folks were watching something special.  This time it was a magnificent male leopard walking beside the road.

Male Leopard KNP

I turned our car around so that Rob could take photos and the leopard obliged by walking next to us and then sitting down at the side of the road.

Male Leopard KNP

What a sight he was.  We were absolutely blown away by this incredible animal.

When the leopard eventually disappeared into the bush, we happily continued on our drive.  Our next bonus was another sighting of lions, a male and female.  Once again we were in the perfect position for photos and we made the most of our special time with them.

Lioness KNP Lion  KNP

At the Mafagalamba Dam, close to the Tshokwane picnic area, we spotted a mother cheetah with three cubs.  She left her cubs briefly to drink at the dam.

Cheetah mother  KNP

Whilst there she spotted an impala and immediately gave chase.  We held our breath thinking that we would see a kill, but the impala managed to escape and the cheetah made her way back to her cubs.

Cheetah cubs  KNP

With that, a lioness appeared and saw an opportunity to have a cheetah cub for a meal.  The cheetah hastily departed with her three cubs.  Here was another chance for us to watch a chase!

Lioness KNP

There was a flurry of activity in a bush as the lioness caught up with them.  Unfortunately by then it was too far away for us to see what happened – we can only hope that the cubs escaped safely and that the mother took on the lioness.  We will never know the outcome, but our day was getting better and better!

By this time it was almost sundown and we were making our way back to our campsite, when we came across a smallish bird sitting in the road.  On closer inspection it turned out to be a Harlequin Quail – a lifer for us.

Harlequin Quail  KNP

I was concerned that it would be run over by a passing car, so I opened my window and flapped a towel near it.  The quail flew off into the safety of the bush.  Our day was over and it will be etched into our memories as the most amazing one ever in any game reserve.  We consider ourselves extremely lucky to have been witness to the best that the bush could offer in a single day.

The Wild Cats of Tenikwa

There are a number of nocturnal animals in South Africa that are very difficult to see in the wild.  Unless you live on a farm, or are willing to pay exorbitant prices to take a night drive in a game reserve (which is actually not a problem for foreign tourists with our favourable exchange rate), your chances of seeing them are very slim.  Rob and I have been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time out in the bush and have been on a number of game drives at night so we have seen a few of the nocturnal cats.  However, it is not ideal to photograph them in the dark.  It was therefore with great delight that we received a gift from family members, Mick and Jo (www.lookatbowen.com) of a photographic safari at Tenikwa, a local wild cat rehabilitation centre.  Situated a few kilometers east of Plettenberg Bay on the Garden Route, Tenikwa is about forty kilometers away from our home in Knysna.

Cheetah

Not only were we given the opportunity to see many beautiful animals in daylight, but it being a photographic tour, we were privileged to have our own personal guide.  He went out of his way to ensure that we were able to get the best shots of the cats by removing obstacles and coaxing them out of their hiding places with food.  Obviously this isn’t the best way to see wild animals, but it’s a close second and it gave us a chance to add their pictures to our portfolio.

Walking the big cat!

Our tour started off with an opportunity to take a cheetah for an early morning walk.  We were given instructions on how to handle the animal so as not to startle it in any way and to keep up with him if he picked up his pace.  I never imagined that I would one day walk a cheetah on a lead – definitely an unusual experience for me!

Carakul

We’ve yet to see a Carakul in the wild, so it was great to be able to photograph this magnificent animal in a decent setting.  This is the largest of the small cats and has a somewhat strange-looking body, with hind legs that are slightly longer than the front legs and a shortish tail.  This is the only cat that doesn’t have any spots at all.  Farmers don’t like Carakuls as they prey on livestock and can be a nuisance.

Serval

This Serval chased after a stick in a kitten-like fashion when our guide tried to get it into a position for photographs.  Servals are hunted mercilessly by our indigenous folk for tribal customs and practices, which is such a shame as they are so beautiful.  We couldn’t photograph the African Wild Cats, because, unlike the Serval, they were very shy and wouldn’t budge from their cosy spot in the bush (isn’t that just typical of a cat!)

White Lion

The white lion is not a nocturnal animal, but it is unusual and this was a particularly beautiful young male specimen.  He almost looked like he could have been the family dog – part Labrador!  I must admit that a white lion is not my favourite.  Rob and I love to see lions in the wild, especially the gorgeous black-maned ones that lie in the red dunes of the Kalahari.  Many legends abound about the white lions though, and if these myths are to be believed, then these lions are very special.  They don’t do well in the wild and will mainly be found in private reserves or rehabilitation centres.

Leopard

We’re always excited to see leopards and the one at Tenikwa was very photogenic.  We were grateful that our guide was able to bring him out into the open as he was fast asleep when we arrived.  One can’t help feeling sorry for these animals being kept in captivity – the ideal is always for them to be able to enjoy the freedom that they were born into.

All in all a super morning enjoying God’s creatures and getting some nice photos for our collection.  Thanks again, Mick and Jo, it was great!

Cheetahs – Natural Born Cullers

On our recent visit to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park we were lucky to see six cheetahs – two with kills and four in a group lying in wait for an unsuspecting Springbok to come into their path.  Unfortunately we didn’t actually witness the kills, but must have arrived shortly after the chase had happened on both occasions.  Cheetahs are the fastest of all animals and can reach speeds of up to 100 kph during a chase.  They prefer to hunt alone, but do also hunt in groups, usually for larger prey.

Natural born culler - a cheetah

On the road between Mata Mata and Twee Rivieren we came across a lone cheetah happily feasting on a Springbok.  Along with a number of other spectators we watched fascinated as the cheetah steadily made its way through the meal.

Cheetah with a kill

Occasionally it would stand up, as if to shift the contents of its stomach to make room for more food.

Standing up to make room for more

We left after about half an hour and when we returned much later, we saw that the cheetah had no intention of  leaving much of its prey for the gathering Black-backed jackals.

Making sure there's not much left

The following day we came across these four beautiful cheetahs that seemed to work in a group to hunt their prey.  They were obviously on the look-out for their next meal, but bush telegraph works very well and the small herd of Springbok about half a kilometer up the valley were keeping wary eyes out for them.  We waited patiently for something to happen, but it obviously wasn’t our day to see an actual kill.

Group of four cheetahs

Driving on the road from Twee Rivieren to Nossob we missed a kill by minutes.  This exhausted cheetah was catching its breath after the chase.

Exhausted after the chase

Once rested, it dragged the Springbok to a more secluded spot.  If we had arrived minutes later we would have missed the sighting altogether.  Talk about good timing … well almost …. as we did miss the kill.

Cheetah dragging a dead Springbok

Botswana 2010 : Nossob to Twee Rivieren

To say that the roads in the Kgalagadi are bad is an understatement.  They are atrocious.  If one is not bouncing over bone-shaking corrugations, then its heavy sand that makes the going tough.  We had left Nossob at first light and headed across the dry riverbed into Botswana for the Mabuasehube leg of our trip.  Driving through thick sand is best tackled early in the day as the sand is harder and more compact after a cold night.  As the day heats up the sand becomes softer and more difficult to drive through.

The scenery along the way in the early morning was magnificent.  There were lots of paw prints along the track and one occasionally had glimpses of shy buck and other animals as they moved away into the cover of the bush.  In spite of the sand and corrugations we were in good spirits, looking forward to this long-awaited part of our holiday.

Steenbok

We stopped a couple of times along the route as the corrugations were making my ears sore from the vibrating.  About forty kilometers along the way we suddenly smelt smoke in our car.  This caused instant alarm.  Had a fire started under the vehicle – a distinct possibility if grass had caught somewhere in the undercarriage and ignited.  Rob and I both jumped out and inspected the scene. No fire, luckily, but I heard a number of swear words when Rob saw oil pouring out of the right front wheel area.  When Jon drew up and inspected the damage he pronounced that our problem was a broken shock-absorber.  Not good news when we still had about 110 kms to go on a road that probably wouldn’t improve.

By now Jon and Hillary were also very concerned about their Oryx van.  It was taking a pounding from the corrugations and after a brief chat we decided to head back to Nossob with a view to getting our car repaired.  Easier said than done.  Turning around on this road was a nightmare, not only because of the soft sand, but the whole area alongside the road was undermined by rat burrows.  Eventually we found a suitable place and managed to get both vehicles facing in the right direction.  No mean feat with a caravan.

Whistling-rat

Our next problem presented itself very quickly.  Rob and I were ahead and came to a rather steep sandy hill with a turn at the top.  We managed to get about three quarters of the way up before we bogged down in the thick sand.  Fortunately we were able to reverse out and make our way backwards down the hill to try a second time.  Jon told Rob to go up at speed and keep the momentum going as he went around the corner at the top.  Strike two was met with the same result as our first attempt.  We got stuck in the same spot.  Once again Rob was able to reverse down.  The situation was concerning as we weren’t towing a van and we were busy churning up the road for Jon.

Rob let the tyres down even further and I elected to stay out of the car as he made his third attempt at crossing the dune.  Hillary had walked to the top of the dune to watch proceedings – obviously wondering how Jon was going to fare with the caravan if Rob did make it over.  With the engine roaring Rob sailed over on his third attempt.  My heart was in my mouth when Jon, knowing he had only one chance, took to the hill at great speed.  With the van swaying dangerously as he neared the top, he made it over – to great cheers from both Hillary and me.  If he’d got stuck on that hill it would have been a disaster.

Baby springbok

At Nossob we decided that we would spend two nights at Twee Rivieren whilst Rob and Jon took our car to Upington for repairs.  The corrugated drive to Twee Rivieren further pounded both our vehicles but we were treated to magnificent red dune scenery along the way.  As we came over the hill and saw the Auob River bed filled with animals, our depressed spirits lifted somewhat. A pair of giraffes gave us a magnificent ‘necking’ display.

Necking giraffes

Necking giraffes

This part of the Park, although much busier, abounds with wildlife and we would have an opportunity to explore the area once the car was repaired.  We saw this collared cheetah sitting under a tree.

Cheetah

Rob and Jon had all four shock absorbers replaced in Upington whilst Hillary made alternative arrangements with the Botswana Parks Board for the balance of our trip.  Our new destination would be Rooiputs where we would spend the next six nights.