Hello! Little Kitty-Cats!

Trip Start May 20, 2010
Trip End Sep 05, 2011

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Flag of Botswana  ,
Wednesday, August 31, 2011

DOMINIQUE HERE : Okavango Delta Day Three

Day : 462
Temperature : 30 degrees
Weather : Beautiful

Just when we thought it couldn't get any better it did!

We rose very early and drove out of camp when it was still dark at 6am. There were hippo and elephant tracks all over the sandy road once again. Ten minutes from camp and there were elephants everywhere, either on the road or just to the side, munching on trees and grass. As we passed the elephants we continued along the track, when out of the darkness a shape came into view on the road directly in front of us. We stopped and turned off the lights. By now it was just starting to get light. A large female lion was walking straight towards us. It was the lions from yesterday! Behind the first lion was "baby", followed by the other two lionesses.

We wound down our windows to get a better view but it was too dark for photos. The first female lion stepped off the road and walked past Kevin's side of the car, stopped, looked straight at us, then carried on. Baby was a little more timid, glancing at the car every now and then before quickly scurrying past. The other two lionesses didn't even notice that we were there, and simply plodded past the car, less than a metre away! Wow!

We drove onwards to a spot where there were cheetahs yesterday, praying that they'd still be there. By now the sun was up, and as always, it was another beautiful African sunrise. As we turned a corner I spotted a movement to my left.....it was the cheetah! A magnificent female cheetah. And beside her were two fluffy, tiny, playful baby cheetahs which must have only been a couple of months old...if that. Now this was like finding safari treasure!

The mother looked us straight in the eye before wandering past us. The babies came running up to the car to see what we were..can you believe it?! All three headed down the sandy track behind us. We thought they were headed off into the bush, but they went for a drink and a dip in the water and returned 10 minutes later. We sat alone with the cheetahs for two hours watching the babies play on the termite mound and interacting with their mother.

After nearly two hours the mother started to look a little restless. She paced around a large tree, then suddenly leaped some 3-4 metres into the air and clambered up the tree where she sniffed the air and looked all around her......maybe she was sniffing out breakfast? After spending a good ten minutes up the tree she lept down and headed to another high log where she climbed up and searched around. By now the babies had stopped playing and were obediently at her side. Only a few minutes later she took the cubs off into the bush.

Kev and I figured that she may be about to go hunting. We drove off, heading upwind where we found a small herd of impala feeding under some bushes. We stopped and turned off the engine. The impala were looking relaxed but we stayed put nonetheless. 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes...nothing. Then suddenly after about half an hour Kev exclaimed, "The impala are off!". I jerked my head up to see that the impala had been spooked and were on the move. We'd seen this before. Impala are skittish. They can be scared by a bird or a car but then tend to settle quickly. But then they started to really run, in one direction, fast. This was it. I leaned out of the window but it was impossible to focus the camera. Things were happening so quickly. I turned to look back to the bushes from where the impala were running and suddenly she came into view. She was on a hunt right before our eyes!

The impala were fleeing. The cheetah was incredible! Did you know that a cheetah can accelerate to 43 miles per hour in TWO seconds and run at a top speed of 75 miles per hour! That's the same speed that you would travel at in your car on a motorway. It is the most incredible sight. Within a matter of seconds they had disappeared. We waited. Nothing. We slowly drove on after them. The impala had scattered. Then the cheetah reappeared....an unsuccessful hunt. Man, our hearts sank. All we could think about were the babies. Up to 75 % of baby cheetahs will die before 3 months of age. These cheetahs were not three months old.

We knew that she would need time to recover and so we waited for an hour before driving back to the termite mound where we were surprised to find her and the cubs resting in the shade. But she was restless, probably hungry and irritable. Within 10 minutes she took the cubs back towards the bush where she rested under a tree, so we headed back to the road away from her and sat waiting. Maybe she would go hunting again later.

We soon met with a couple that we'd spoken to the day before. We'd told them about the cheetah and what had happened already that day. After an hour we decided to look for her again. We found them under another tree, and we stopped about 30 metres away. The other couple headed closer to try to get another look but it was too close and the mother was having none of it...she retreated into the bush. And that was the last we saw of her. We waited all day, but nothing.

We felt so priveleged to spend so much time with her and her beautiful cubs and only hope that she makes a successful kill and those two adorable baby cheetahs will make it safely to adulthood. How lucky we were.

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