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Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2007 1:32 pm 
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Location: Fish Hoek, Cape Town
DAY 13 - at Urikaruus

Again the call of the hyena during the night, but even with the spotlight, we do not see them :( .

Its a really warm, calm morning, which would turn into the hottest day of the trip, about 32 degrees. Our last full day at Urikaruus :( , so we decided on another decadent breakfast on deck. Where have all the days gone?

We only get out on the road at 9.30am, and at Kamqua we enjoy our only cheetah sighting on the Auob. This one had a collar, and walked a short distance north on the riverbed and then up into the dunes and away :evil: .

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A few hundred metres up the valley, we stop at a herd of springbok, and hope the cheetah is headed this way. As we drink our coffee, a slender mongoose crosses the road, a first sighting for me.

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His tail was so long, the camera removed it…

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Two gemsbok males decided to fight over a female

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While the lady in question decided to make herself attractive with a ball of dry grass

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We head north to the 13th borehole, on the way we spot another tawny(?) eagle really close to the road. I like this pic :P

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At the 13th, a really confusing set of lion tracks. Looks like a single male, but we follow them in a complete circle, along the upper road, and then all the way along the lower loop road which passes the waterhole, re-connecting with the tracks on the upper road. No sign of any lion :? .


An AWC jumps into the tree behind the 14th waterhole.

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Further north, we spot a late-sleeping jackal curled up in the middle of the riverbed. Its dark reddish-brown coat makes me stop and scan with the binocs. That’s no jackal :shock:

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The third caracal sighting on this trip, and the best, but what was it doing out so late, lying exposed in the middle of the riverbed?

A strong north wind picks up. We head back south, and come across our first snake, a mole snake, enjoying the warm sun. A few hundred metres further, another mole snake. These were the only snake encounters on this trip.

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Then what I thought was a woodpecker, but is an African Hoopoe

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By now it was so hot, even the springbok sought out some shade.

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A group of ground squirrels provided the most puzzling behaviour of the day. This squirrel was climbing up small shrubs to get to the best bits, nothing unusual about that,

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But his mates were in the middle of the road, trying to bury themselves in the sand.

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Then it made sense. All part of Sanparks’ new sustainable, eco-friendly road maintenance campaign, they leveled each corrugation, before moving on to the next. Clever. Expect vastly improved road surfaces by the year 2025.

Of course, they were only trying to cool off in the tree-shaded sand, and were obviously quick enough to avoid the speeding vehicles on this blind corner. The road is as bad as it looks. This stretch north of Urikaruus was the worst in the park. But the roads elsewhere were generally ok.

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Back at camp, the strong wind is gusting down the dry riverbed.

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The wildebeest hunker down

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And the springbok turn their backs to the dust storm.

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An African Jacana bird is spotted by our neighbours at the waterhole - this is rare visitor to this part of the world.

The wind is howling now, and the camp attendant tells us no braais (barbecues) allowed tonight, so its stewed lamb chops instead. As we are ready to eat, the wind drops to a cooling breeze and we can sit outside on the deck, again.

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:thumbs_up: for Urikaruus...


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Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2007 9:04 pm 
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Peterbee
All that is left for me to say about your report and pics is "DITTO" to everyone elses comments. :clap: All the pics are brilliant but in this last posting I just love your Tawny Eagle pic.

Urikaruus is our absolute best and seeing the pics of the waterhole and camp is just so exciting for me.
I think it was Arks, who sometime ago, asked how far we estimated the waterhole to be from the viewing decks. 30 to 40 metres was my guess. Do you think that's correct?
Pleased to see that the camp assistant advised 'no fires' for that windy night. This is something we were talking about only the other day. We managed to braai on both nights during our last stay but the second night the wind came up a little later. One has to be really vigilant, especially with these braais on the decks.
We have always gone out early in the mornings, but next visit this Sept, we added the extra day to do exactly as you did. Leisurely special breakfast and then chill on the decks for the rest of the day :D
With all this promoting of Urikaruus we had better be careful, we may have to have an auction to bid for the availability of accomodation :lol:


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Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 7:08 pm 
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@Candy's Style - I also think its a weaver of some type. If you move slowly enough, you can always enjoy some really funny performances in the KTP :P

@arks - i will move this up to the experts on the bird forum, thanks. In addition to the pasta, bring some cushions if you can find the space, a full day on the Urikaruus deck chairs can be a bit hard :wink:

@dreamer - I would think the waterhole is about 40 to 50 metres from the decks. A day "confined to cabin" is a day well spent, strongly recommended :dance: I will be doing it again in April 08 :P In fact, I will give my car keys to the camp attendant, with instructions to hide for two days. :dance:

@salva - true, at this stage I had been spoiled rotten with good cat sightings. What disappointed me (ie, :evil: ) was that during 10 days on the Auob, we only saw one cheetah. I began to wonder if this was linked to the large number of lion sightings. During previous trips, maybe 10 lions was a very good tally, and I always enjoyed multiple cheetah sightings on the Auob. Now, two years in a row, lions are everywhere. Last year, no cheetahs on the Auob.Are the cheetah and leopards struggling? Has something changed in the balance between the big cats?

@littlesimba
Quote:
Please stop reporting caracal sightings
- ok !
Quote:
By the way, can i book you as a caracal guide
sure thing, I require 3 hours notice (enough to get the lamb chops for the braai and the boxes of red wine) - my services are free :P

@ everyone else, thanks for the kind comments and encouragement, I am enjoying re-living this fantastic experience with folks that share my affection for wildlife and KTP :P :P :P


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Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 9:01 pm 
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DAY 14 - Urikaruus to Mata Mata

Time to head north to Mata Mata. It’s a cold morning, about 5 degrees, but the regulars are already out and about.

At the 14th borehole, warming up in the early morning sun, this large and handsome cat :|

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resting about 20 metres beyond the waterhole. We scan the rest of the area for the other pride members, but no luck. So we have our breakfast, and watch. Its clear he is ready to sleep, but we hope he will first drink.

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No movement, typical lion behaviour, so we head off north, alerting some British tourists on the way, at which point, in my rear-view mirror is our sleepy lion, walking towards the waterhole. Quick turnaround and we catch him just before he crosses the road.

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As he gets closer, we realize this lion has seen better days - some wounds are apparent and he is quite thin.

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A close-up reveals a nasty injury to his jaw, and part of a porcupine quill stuck in a nostril. It’s sad to see a lion in this condition, but this is the reality of life in such a harsh and unforgiving environment. :(

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He ambles across the road and into the dunes….In silence, we wonder if he is a lone male, and how long he will survive. :( :(

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We move on, dismayed by the suffering of this lion, and the realisation that our Kalahari trip is entering its final stage.


Its another busy day on the Auob.

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I cannot believe my luck at finding a family of meerkats at the entrance to Mata Mata. They mingle with a large herd of springbok, which remained camped out at the Mata Mata waterhole for the remainder of our stay.

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We check into bungalow #1, and unpack. The wind has picked up again and is blowing strongly :evil: . Take a stroll to the shop and down to the campsite, slowly adapting to the hustle and bustle of life in a big camp :wink: , and watch the springbok drinking at the waterhole.

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By 5pm, I am miserably aware that, for a second night in a row, there will be no lamb chop braai – the wind is roaring through camp, and the sky is cloudy. Its also now cold. So, retire inside the bungalow and wait out the storm with the help of some red wine…..


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Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 9:47 pm 
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Quote:
Are the cheetah and leopards struggling? Has something changed in the balance between the big cats?

One can never tell .....our cheetah sighting in the Aub was very close to our lion sighting the Aub. Both couples were fast asleep in the sun...both very much unaware of each other. I must admit I find it strange that we should find cheetah so very close to lion...and both parties were very much relaxed :huh:

In your opinion Peterbee how much do you think the wind affects game viewing..it has been said that the animals disappear into the dunes when it is windy...what do you think???


Last edited by Caracal on Mon Jul 09, 2007 9:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2007 9:47 am 
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@ michele
You mention that you had heard that the animals dissapear into the dunes when it is windy. We had heard, during our June 2005 visit, that the animals stay in the dunes when it is cold. It was darn cold as many have reported . Our min. was
-11 degrees. Well the theory of them staying in the dunes is certainly blown out when one sees what fantastic sightings peter had!! I am now satisfied and convinced that there are no fixed theories at all. That is what is so fantasic about this park.
@ peterbee :lol: :lol: :lol: You really made me chuckle this am about the giving of your car keys to the camp attendant :clap: Thought that even though we have Sept confirmed I would take a chance and try plan for April next year. Ha Ha :evil: I should have known better!!
A couple more years for us and we will not be dictated by school holidays.. even though we are bad and still sneak a week alongside :redface:
I'm glad you have another soon because we have really enjoyed this report so now we have another to look forward to. Thank you :clap:


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Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2007 1:14 pm 
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I am now satisfied and convinced that there are no fixed theories at all


I think this is true :wink:

I was told by rangers over the years about the wind and cold.

COLD - animals may not like the cold, but it certainly does not stop them from coming down to graze and browse in sub-zero temperatures. In May, they were already out and about at dawn. So scrap this theory.

WIND - I have almost always visited KTP in May, only once in Sept and once in Nov.

August / Sept are the windiest months, and last Sept it did seem that animals stayed out of the riverbeds on really windy days with dust storms.

This May, the winds varied in strength through the day, so it was not comparable to last Sept. I would therefore think there is some truth in this theory.


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Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2007 8:19 pm 
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DAY 15 - at Mata Mata

On the 15th day, the eager-beaver early-birds were up at 5.30am and at the gate at 6.50am, roaring to go. No signs of bush fatigue for these two Kalahari troopers, motivation levels were similar to Day 1 :dance:

One problem : ice on the windscreen, which had to be washed off with cold water. No gloves, so the result is very cold hands :shock: . Fortunately, the wind has dropped completely overnight. Fortunately again, the Prado has heated front-seats :clap: . Unfortunately, forgot to dry the windscreen before departing. Result is a fresh layer of ice on the windscreen soon after leaving camp, leading to a delay and some muttering from the passenger :roll: .

Despite the freezing conditions, springbok, gemsbok, hartebeest and giraffe are all out in the riverbed, grazing and browsing.

This hartebeest stood on the dune behind Kalahari Tented Camp, ready to greet the new day.

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As we drive up to the 14th borehole, we spot a male lion walking towards the waterhole, and from behind, we are certain this is the same male as yesterday.

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As we pull alongside, its clearly a different lion, but with a similar problem – porcupine quills, lots of them, and a trace of blood on his face?

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Now some of you will be sitting back and thinking, ‘Peterbee is making this all up’. :hmz: What are the chances, on consecutive mornings, of lone males, arriving at the same waterhole, at about the same time, both a little worse for wear, both on the lean side, both carrying a few unwanted porcupine quills? About zero. Well folks, it happened.

These are two different lions.
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He approached the waterhole, and jumped over the muddy bits, to drink for about 12 minutes.

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We were alone at the waterhole, and in the still morning, we could clearly hear the lion lapping up the water. Eventually he lay down and drank.

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I have opened the window to take these photographs, and now my hands are ice cold, and I wonder if the camera can operate in these conditions. Again we look around for the rest of the pride, but nothing. The lion retreats to a bush on the other side of the riverbed, and we decide its time to warm up with coffee and breakfast.

By 10am, there are 8 cars watching the sleeping lion, and a few gemsbok drinking at the waterhole. Perhaps somebody can explain why lions are so fond of porcupines? Is this all that lone males can successfully hunt?

We leave and head back north, passing some giraffe,

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And at Craig Lockhart, 33 ostriches. We notice two gemsbok scuffling in the dust, but only closer to the waterhole do we pick up the injury suffered by this gemsbok, from a wound on its side.

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Craig Lockhart, like the 13th waterhole, is completely dry.

Returned to Mata Mata. A cold wind has again sprung up from the south :evil: . The warmest place is in the car, so we head out again at 3pm, and spot 2 African wild cats.

Stopped at Dalkeith for afternoon drinks, but the whole area is deserted, only some doves for company.

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At Sitzas, watch a giraffe family patiently wait for a lone wildebeest to exit the waterhole, before cautiously coming in to drink.

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Back at camp at 6pm, the wind is once again howling up from the south, the temperature reads 6 degrees. No ways am I going without a braai for a 3rd night :naughty:

So alone outside, not another person in sight, I make a fire and shelter it from the southerly gusts, standing as close to the fire as possible, and hoping that I would not accidentally set Namibia alight :shock: . With a glass of medicinal liquid in one hand, the other buried in a pocket, I kept an eye open for the resident genet.

What the neighbours thought, I will never know. The lamb chops never tasted better. :thumbs_up:

(For those interested in the lion tally : 24 :wink: )


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Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2007 11:18 pm 
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@restio - Re "bush fatigue", well spotted, how this got in I really do not know. Only americans suffer from this? :)

@littlesimba - Thanks so much for posting your pic - it sure is the same lion (I think Scarface is a perfect name for him).

I find this really interesting, because there is now definitely a problem with his jaw (below pic), right where the quill was in Feb. So its possible it did not heal properly?

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I know that there is always a risk of infection from these quills, and this can be fatal, although less so in the dry months. After a while they usually fall out.

Its also good to know he was part of a pride back in Feb, but of course this may not be the case now.

What is strange is that he did not learn a lesson in Feb, but carried on hunting porcupines. :? What attracts lions to this prickly creature? Is it the taste?
Something similar to me and my braaied lamb chops ??? :P


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Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2007 5:30 pm 
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DAY 16 - at Mata Mata


It’s a frantically cold minus 2 degrees at 7am, and first priority is to switch on the seat-warmers and the car heater. We are the only early-birds this morning, MM is dead quiet and the campers are understandably still fast asleep.

In the sightings book there have been 3 reports of honey badgers in the 13th & 14th borehole area. This day was then dedicated to badger hunting, I was determined to get a really good sighting, and researched in the books I had with me, the exact habits and likely locations for this elusive creature.

Once again, all the usual regulars were out before us, in the mind-numbing cold. How is it possible for the springbok to survive the winter months, with below-freezing conditions during long hours of darkness ? Such a meagre coat cannot offer much protection.

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At Craig Lockhart, for the first time, we see gemsbok, springbok, hartebeest and wildebeest at the waterhole together. As a rule, they are reluctant to share a waterhole, and each usually waits its turn. They looked bewildered by the absence of water, and paced up and down in the sand, occasionally entering the water trough to make absolutely sure.


Well, we patrolled the 13th and 14th borehole area at 5km/h, inspecting the base of each and every collapsed tree, under every bush, every dune, but with not a badger to be seen. And no lions either.

But Corner Cat was there to greet us – he did not stick around, probably had to keep moving to stay warm.

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Head back north, and came across a herd of giraffe, close to the road.

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Two of them appeared to be males engaged in some gentle sparring.

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:huh:
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Now we were not so sure they were males... :wink:
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Another tender ear lick
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A comforting hug (well, as much as this is possible for giraffe)
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We watched for about 30 minutes, when our 16-day visit almost came to an abrupt end. A large 4x4 with trailer in tow, came hurtling down the hill, directly towards us. We were parked on the right-hand side of the road, to give the giraffe some space. I flashed my lights, to alert the driver to the giraffe (and us). At the last moment, he swerved onto the other side and passed us, his foot never touching the brakes once. After the huge cloud of dust had settled, the giraffe had all vanished over the dune. End of sighting. :evil:


Another tawny eagle
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And a Kori bustard
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Back at the entrance to Mata Mata, the meerkats were out again.

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MM is deserted, those that venture out are wrapped up for the Siberian conditions. Even the Sanparks staff grumble about the big freeze. Its simply too cold anywhere other than inside the car. So we pack a lunch and move down to the 14th waterhole, and remain until 430pm. About 14 gemsbok come to drink, there is a large herd of sprinbok (about 250) and we spot another African wild cat – with the sparse vegetation, they cannot hide.

Despite all the springbok in the upper Auob, we have seen no more cheetahs. The sightings book at MM also shows no recent encounters.

Although there is no wind :) its too cold to be outside, so its early to bed. It is going to be a very cold night.


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Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2007 10:21 pm 
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DAY 17 - Mata Mata to Twee Rivieren


A shockingly-cold minus 6 degrees :big_eyes: on our last day. Somehow, we managed to pack the vehicle in the steely cold dawn, and were out the gate at 7am.

Although the usual game was out, nothing else was ready to test the sub-zero conditions.

At Dalkeith, another AWC,

out on some really ambitious hunting…
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need a ladder for this one....
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Nah, it might fall on me when I bring it down – best move on….
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Pause defiantly, just to let everyone know that I'm not running away from a piddling giraffe...
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At Kamqua we had breakfast, watched by 10 gemsbok at the waterhole. South of Kamqua is completely deserted, not an animal in sight. Around Auchterlonie, the dunes are virtually bare of vegetation and it is extremely dry. I have never seen the Kalahari so arid. The north Auob is far greener than the southern half.

Just north of Munro, we spot this cape fox on the side of the road,
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and cannot understand why the people in the car stopped next to us are looking the other way. They have to point it out for us… :redface:

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Looks like a male. The other car has followed him for 5km up the Auob :mrgreen: He soon disappears into the dunes on the far side. I wonder later if this is the father of the famous Twee Rivieren cub?

Well, I had given up all hope of seeing a leopard, so this was really a great surprise :P . No honey badger yet :wink:


Over the dunes and down into the Nossob valley, we see cars parked. It’s the leopard mother and cub, still performing at the same spot just out of TR. We had missed them on the way north.

At first they sleep,

then the cub decides its playtime….
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first I jump on mom…
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I know you’re awake, mom….
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maybe if I sit on your head….
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or bite your nose….
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scratch your face....
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suckle....
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she’s awake - quickly, show some love and affection....
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and we can play at last....
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time out.....
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now where’s she going…..?
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well, it was fun while it lasted….
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my mom, what a lady…
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its time to go……
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These pics were taken over a period of about 5 hours. We had left the mother and cub at 1pm to stock up on food and drink at TR, returning at 3.15pm.

They put on an extraordinary show, chasing and ambushing one another all over the ridge. The cub repeatedly dropped out of sight into the cavities and crevices in the ridge. Mom was too big to follow, but would keep watch over the last exit point, while the cub quietly re-appeared metres away and tried to sneak up on her. Leopard fun :dance: .

At 5.50pm, they trundled off over the ridge, and it was back to camp for us.

What an incredible end to our stay. :dance: :dance: :dance: We enjoyed a final lamb chop braai and wine feast at TR - windless night :P and clear skies.

Tomorrow, we would head back to our other home :cry: , but we planned a final, early-morning visit to the leopard and cub – you can never get enough of leopards.

Almost forgot. I managed to operate the video camera some of the time, and hope you will enjoy these clips (thanks to Michele for the "technical support" :clap: )

http://video.tinypic.com/player.php?v=53p7pn8
http://video.tinypic.com/player.php?v=63n0ylu
http://video.tinypic.com/player.php?v=4r9sgg3


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Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 11:33 am 
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Sorry, I couldn't resist...

11 lion sightings
3 cheetah sightings
1 (tremendous) leopard sightings
3 caracals
9 AWC
1 brown hyena
3 bat eared fox sighting
1 cape fox
3 meerkat sighting

nex to that numerous other intresting sightings...

Correct me if I'm wrong, Peter :lol:

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 1:19 pm 
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@salva - there is still another morning to include in the report, so you are not rid of me yet :| , and some of your figures will have to then be revised, because KTP gave us a farewell present :P .....more on that tomorrow.

I can be certain on this leopard sighting - it was the best experience of all 9 trips to KTP. Unforgettable.


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Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 4:15 pm 
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Thanks PB for a superb report. :clap:

Seeing those lion pix, I just thought to mention that porcupine quill injuries normally do not have a huge effect on the affected lion. Some become quite adapt at hunting porcupines. In the Kruger National Park research has shown that some lions have a diet consisting of 29% of impala, 16% of zebra, 14% of blue wildebeest, 13% of warthog and 13% of porcupine! That means one out of every six kills is a porcupine! :shock:

A porcupine defending itself will charge backwards at speed impaling the attacker with its quills. The popular belief that a Porcupine can shoot its quills at its enemy is untrue.

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Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2007 4:35 pm 
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@wanderw & Safarigirl - The leopard cub looks very young in the photos. But I would agree at about 3 months old.

@Johan van Rensburg
Quote:
some lions have a diet consisting of ......13% of porcupine

Thanks Johan, this is an amazing fact, perhaps in KTP the percentage is even higher, with less general game than KNP?

@dreamer
Quote:
I wait for the last day with anticipation and now do truley believe that it is going to be awesome
:redface: Oops, I think I may have raised your hopes too much...it was a pretty ordinary day :wink:


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