The final installment...
Twee Rivieren (16 June - 17 June):
We were up at the crack of dawn ready for our last full day in the park.
We were going to spend our last night at Twee Rivieren and then hit the road to Johannesburg as soon as the gates opened. We packed the car and were ready to start our drive at about 7:45. We decided to take the top roads and not the loops around the waterholes. As we neared 14th Borehole (the place of amazing fortune the day before), we slowed down to snail pace scanning both the ground and the trees just in case the leopard and cheetah had been successful the previous evening. The large herd of springbok that had "disappeared" were back. But something didn't seem right. There were a handful of male springbok "scouts" that seemed uneasy.
Again I turned to my SO and said that I wanted to do the last kilometre again. This time she agreed without hesitation.
I turned around and drove slowly past the large springbok herd. Just as I passed the group of male scouts at the end of the herd, a head popped up in the shade of a tree 30 metres from the scouts. Cheetah
We turned onto the loop and parked parallel to the cat. We were amazed that the springboks could not see it. Every now and again it would lower its head then lift it again to see where the springboks had moved to. After about ten minutes, the tourists in the Prado (from the previous afternoon that asked me if the leopard was a cheetah), came driving past and I waved them down and pointed out the cheetah that was stalking the springbok. They quickly reversed and parked behind us. After about an hour there were about 3 vehicles parked around us. The tourists in the Prado could not wait any longer, pulled up next to us, thanked us and went on their way. The cheetah then started to edge forward towards the seemingly blind male scouts.
One of the springbok in the main herd which was about a hundred metres away gave an alarm call. The entire herd stopped feeding and looked toward the cheetah. The scouts were very confused as they could not see the cheetah (25 metres away). A few of the main herd even started to walk towards the cheetah for a better look. I think they had realised that there was something unusual in the shadow of the tree but had not realised it was a cheetah. After about 20 minutes, the main herd started to go about their daily duties again. The scouts were still uneasy but also started feeding again.
Our 'friends' in the Ford Focus that had spotted the cheetah the previous evening came driving past, along the main road. They slowed down to have a look and I gestured to them to turn towards our parking spot, only 40 metres into the loop. I pointed out the cheetah and told them that the herd had spotted it. There were now 8 cars around our vehicle (the largest number of cars I had seen at any sighting in the Kgalagadi). I decided to move forward out of the potential traffic jam, in case the cheetah decided to give chase. I moved the car to the 'perfect' viewing spot: the cheetah, the handful of springbok scouts and my car all lined up.
Then all of a sudden, my prediction came true (kind of).
In a split second the cheetah stood up and bolted, but not towards me, towards the large herd of springbok over a hundred metres away. I quickly started my engine and pulled off in pursuit of the cheetah. As I turned onto the main road, a family that had also stopped and seen the cheetah takeoff, were trying to do a u-turn and were blocking the road. After a second or two there were 8 cars behind me all waving hands at the car to pull over to the side and let us pass. But instead the driver decided to reverse the car in pursuit of the cheetah at about 15km per hour.
We all eventually caught up to the cheetah about 150 metres from where we started and about 40 metres from the road. There were still a few spingbok stragglers scattering and jumping in the air, but the rest of the herd were gone.........
The cheetah had seemingly given up and was standing on a small mound looking around.
The Ford Focus pulled up next to us and told us that they had managed to get some excellent shots of the cheetah and the springbok fleeing.
They then went on to tell us that they had found 'our' leopard from the day before on the Twee Rivieren side of 13th Borehole and that she was also playing on the road next to their vehicle for a while. They said they had seen her an hour or so earlier. We decided that we had spent enough time with the cheetah and thought we would try our luck with the leopard. Enroute we disussed the likelihood that the leopard at 13th borehole was the same one we had seen twice previously around 14th borehole, but decided anything was possible.
As we approached 13th borehole my SO suggested that we take the main road and not the loop to get to the areas described by the guys in the Ford Focus, quicker. After a short friendly debate we took the loop instead. We passed the waterhole and neared the end of the loop when my SO shouted "LEOPARD
" She was walking along a small ridge next to the road but disappeared after a few minutes. We drove up and down but could not find her. We eventually decided to drive along the main road which was higher than the loop road to find her again. We quickly drove up the hill but soon lost sight of the loop road and turned around. On our way down the hill we spotted her still walking along the ridge.
We quickly turned back onto the loop and drove to the area we had seen her. Nothing
We drove to the waterhole and were joined by the guys in the Ford Focus who told us that we should have stayed for 5 more minutes at the cheetah sighting. The mound that we had thought the cheetah was standing on, was actually a springbok that it had caught!
They said that just after we left, the springbok jumped up and and tried to escape. The cheetah again chased the springbok and caught and killed it in full view of all the cars. He added that he had taken some excellent shots of the final chase.
a crop of the previous cheetah photo, reveals white underbelly of the springbok
We told them that we had found the leopard but that she had disappeared. They remarked on how lucky we seemed to be with the leopards and cheetahs. We decided to drive back to the main road again for another elevated look, as we got closer to the main road we spotted her sitting under a bush on the ridge.
The Ford Focus was just behind us and we were again then joined by the tourists in the Prado. When the leopard realised she had been spotted she walked towards us and stood in the road for a few minutes.
She then proceeded to climb into a tree and disappeared amongst the branches for a while.
Luckily for us the tree couldn't have been too comfortable because after a few minutes she climbed down and started chasing something small in the grass.
After a good look at her my SO and I both agreed that she was a different leopard. She looked older than the previous one and had different facial markings.
The leopard climbed onto a fallen tree still looking for the small animal it was chasing. It posed for the excited onlookers for a few minutes, then walked off into the bush and climbed into a large tree for a nap.
This sighting lasted for over an hour. It was almost lunch time so we decided to continue on our drive to Twee Rivieren.
Along the way we came across large herds of springbok and my SO's favourite, the Meerkats (or Suricates). After spending a few minutes with the meerkats we carried on to Twee Rivieren. At reception we decided to treat ourselves to an evening drive and heard the good news that Jannie would be taking us out.
That evening we dressed warmly and proceeded to the game viewing vehicle. We introduced ourselves to Jannie as forum members, briefly discussed our trip and showed off the forum tshirt I was wearing. Shortly after that we were on the way and after what seemed to be a fews minutes later (actually 3 hours) we were back at camp.
The evening drive was superb. We learnt a lot from Jannie, including the directional movements of the animals indicating where the lions probably were that evening and the horny ostriches. He also cleared up a common misconception about the assumed difference in colour reflection of predator eyes vs herbivore eyes. Our special sightings on the evening drive included an African Wild Cat, a large porcupine and Cape and Bat-eared foxes.
All in all we had had another fantastic stay in the Kgalagadi, made all the more special by a few spectacular sightings and by our interactions with other visitors to the park. No doubt we will be back soon!