Spurred on by the incredible sightings of recent days and the desire for more big cat sightings we headed out at first light back toward the Auob riverbed and promptly saw a wildcat dash into the long grasses. We hoped this was a sign of things to come, however sightings were minimal and the herds of previous days had moved on. We had to travel a considerable distance to find any springbok or wildebeest. What’s more – the carcass and some organs from the cheetah kill of the previous day was still there and largely untouched from how we’d seen it the night before. It seemed that even the scavengers had moved on.
Undeterred we pressed on and a short while later spotted the silhouette of a cat high on the riverbank. We lost her as quickly as we spotted her but we were determined to ‘hang in there’ and we scoured the horizon for any tell tale signs. We spotted two eland on the riverbank due north of us, their gazes transfixed on one location on the horizon. They did not move a muscle, simply stared, and stared and stared. We knew they’d spotted something that they were not comfortable with.
Until now my gaze had been fixed on the horizon, but the unmistakable rasp of a springbok as an alarm call caused me to avert my gaze to the dry riverbed and onto a group of bushes which the bok had started to focus on. There, deep in the undergrowth was what I identified as a cheetah, crouched and ready to pounce. She made an attempt (somewhat half hearted) to pounce the bok but gave up as quickly as she started. Her cover broken she brazenly started to stalk across the riverbed – it was then I realised it was a leopard!
To my joy she started to run after a small bok on the ridge but her heart was not in it. All the while she was ‘flanked’ at a distance by a herd of about 20-30 spring bok who were determined not to flee to safety. We followed her progress for about an hour as she sent herds into a combination of mesmerized stares or utter panic, but no matter how close she got they did not run. Seemingly resigned to a breakfastless morning she eventually climbed into a tree and promptly fell asleep in perfect view by the Montrose waterhole. By this time she’d entered into the path of a wildebeest herd, and both them and the bok started to gather at the foot of the tree staring at her. They stood their ground as a conjoined herd, seemingly un-nerved and not flinching from her presence. One gemsbok even moved to stand right under the branch she was on, either clueless or seemingly for a closer look …it soon thought better of it. We half expected (hoped!) for the leopard to leap from the tree at any moment, but she barely gave them a second glance as she relaxed on a low slung branch in the shade of the tree, legs and tail swinging happily. Once she’d fallen asleep for a while we realised she’d be there for a while and pressed on, vowing to return later to see if she’d emerge and feel hungry!
Later that day we headed over the dune road toward Kij Kij. It was the first time we travelled this road and we revelled in the stunning scenery. A couple of kms before the Tierkop waterhole I spotted a group of 4 lions – two male, two female sleeping on top of the red sand dune. I was thrilled – I was dying to see lions on the dunes and it was a great photo opportunity as the male lion opened his sleepy eyes and started to yawn and roll over. What’s more – we had the sighting totally to ourselves – no one stopped or came by the entire time we were there. Incredible!
However, the lions seemed very susceptible to our car engine – it disturbed them more so than any other animal, so we turned the ignition off and used the handbrake to roll and manoeuvre as required. They quickly became inactive once more in the heat of the day so we pressed on towards Twee.
On our return journey we had a dilemma …do we return to the leopard or lion – or try both? We opted for the leopard, but upon arrival at the tree she had slept in we saw nothing. With the leopard long gone, we decided to try our luck and see if we could make it back to the lions at the Tierkop waterhole. Luck was on our side and we arrived to find the lions waking from their slumber. We were treated to a display of yawns, ‘spooning,’ preening, romantic moments and prowling – all in the glorious golden light before sunset.
That evening we ‘battled’ with a stunning lizard who’d infiltrated our cabin in an attempt to return him to the outside world. After much coaxing he’d exited, only to return in our kitchen an hour later via a secret entrance. Cheeky!
It was another incredible day in KTP.
More photos from our trip are available in the Taraji Blue Kalahari photo gallery.