Trip report. Day 6 in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Sunset in the Kalahari

We woke early. Wrapped in blankets we headed out onto the deck to watch the sunrise with a coffee to see if any animals would visit the waterhole. It was quiet in camp, so after a beautiful sunrise we jumped into the car and headed out to the Auob riverbed and drove right by a pair of mating leopards. We could hardly believe our luck. We followed them from the dune road to the riverbed and back again as they meandered between the bushes and long grasses, ‘enjoying themselves’ 😉 We were fortunate to spend an hour with them before they slunk off over the horizon.

With hearts pounding and wide smiles we set off to the riverbed once more, stopping dead in our tracks 10 minutes later when we spotted the unmistakable silhouette of two cheetahs high on the riverbank. Cast into shadow by the rising sun, the cheetahs were clearly on the prowl. Feeling lucky we decided there and then to take a gamble and we drove off in the direction the cheetahs were heading to find the closest herd of animals in the hope that the cheetahs would join us for breakfast later. We cracked open the thermos and enjoyed strong coffee and rusks surrounded by a herd of wildebeest and our patience paid off.

Cheetah chases a wildebeest

An hour later we saw two shadows on the top of the riverbank but we barely had time to register their presence before they took off at speed toward the herd, causing utter chaos and panic both inside our car and out. We scrambled for our cameras and threw ourselves towards our open windows to capture the moment. After a few seconds of chaos the cheetah locked onto one wildebeest and started to drive him away from the herd and straight towards us. Heart pounding in my ears, I took my eye away from the lens to see the cheetah running toward us at full speed and we realised she was not going to deter her path. Ali swore, I screamed and the wildebeest roared…the car filled with dust from the chase and for a second we could see nothing – we could only hear the panting of the cheetah by our side as she captured and suffocated the wildebeest right next to us. Absolutely incredible!

 We stayed for an hour or so, but then decided to take a leaf out of the cheetah’s book and we headed back to Kieliekrankie for lunch.

Fancying a daytime braai we lit the fire and set about cooking a nice steak sandwich…..big mistake! We very quickly became surrounded in all directions by sociable weavers who would not be deterred from stealing our toast. Resistance was futile – it was like a scene from Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’. We packed up and headed indoors to the safety of our kitchen to enjoy our lunch, leaving in our wake a deck full of cheeky, chirping birds. Lesson learned 🙂

Mid-afternoon we headed back down to the riverbed to see the cheetahs once more. Rested and proudly displaying a swollen belly, A Cheetah enjoys a mid afternoon snackboth cheetahs were lounging by the roadside in the golden light, their faces bathed in dried blood. I had never been so close to a cheetah before – they lay right next to our car and you could hear them pant, yawn and lick themselves clean. It was hard to recall them as fearless killing machines when they looked so much like large contented house cats.

Excited by the sighting we quickly lost track of time and dusk was falling…as ever, when we’re running a little short on time, we’ll see a range of fantastic sightings that we don’t have time to stop and appreciate, including a huge eland roadside, bat eared foxes hunting, meercats, mighty eagles and the most jaw dropping sunset.

Eland

That night we settled on the deck with a Cape Red and our first ever Potjie,  listening to the sounds of the African desert and watching our neighbours’ flashlights dance off the dunes in search of lions. Delicious.

More photos from our trip are available in the Taraji Blue Kalahari photo gallery.

Our first Potjie

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