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Day 5 : on the road to Mata Mata
Today, we decide to take the second big road and head to Mata Mata or as far as we can go before going back.
The morning is rather quiet for this long drive, except for birds of prey. The first 80 kms are filled with black shouldered kites and pale chanting goshawks.
Then after Urikaarus, I start to look inside trees as there are now some along the road, searching for owls and that was a good idea as I spot an African wild cat laying on a high branch (what about a AWCITS club ?). It doesnot seemed to be disturbed at all and look at us for a while before starting to move. We think it is about to jump and flee but not at all, it just stretches its legs and sits again at the same placeÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.
After a while we reach Mata Mata which lays in a beautiful surrounding. The last 5 kilometers of the Auob river bed just look like a large golf fairway, with green grass and trees on both sides. If you add, the red dunes just behind and some springboks, it is just fabulous Ã¢â‚¬Â¦
We decide to go back a little and have picnic at Craig Lockhardt waterhole. The hell of a good spot that I strongly recommend : the place is shady (a big tree just over you) and the waterhole is less than 10 meters from the car. We stay there about an hour, watching birds (lots of namaqua dove come to drink) and a group of gemsboks, first puzzled by our car but then confident enough to spend the hour with us. I take lots of photos of them. Other interesting birds are around : crimson breasted shrikes, yellow canarys, redbilled finches etc Ã¢â‚¬Â¦. A jackal walks by and goes without drinking.
As time is passing we decide to drive back and very soon see a VerreauxÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Owl, on a low branch 5 meters from us. It looks a bit weird. First we think it is just sleeping (and having a nightmare) but it just doesnot look fine. Then it starts shaking its head and moving from right to left, I bet it is sick and suddenly it throws up something quite big, which I identify as a large part of a mouse !!! Most definitely a digestion problem as the owl looks a lot better after that Ã¢â‚¬Â¦
A few kilos down the road, my girlfriend Marie, spots 2 cheetahs under a tree. Very difficult spotting, the tree is about 150 meters from the road on our left hand side and the cheetahs are just lying down in the shade. Another cheetah joins them coming from behind a dead tree nearby, followed by another one and another one. 5 cheetahs ! Caroline and Craig had told us, they had seen this group of 5 a few days ago near Mata Mata (which is only 25 kms away). We decide to wait a little, hoping for some activity as they are quite far from the road. And we wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be disappointed !
I still donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know what happened really but suddenly, I see a springbok running in the river bed followed by 2 cheetahs at full speed. Incredible feeling, I can still hear in my head the loud noise of their feet on the ground : a incredible impression of power. Wooff. Of course they are so fast, we canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t follow the whole hunt, especially as they disappear behind a big low tree. But we have found the result : it is a miss ! The springbok is now standing 300 meters away and the cheetahs walking back to their tree. I guess, the springbok had not seen them as they were lying down and just walked by, immediately hunted by the group. When I really saw them running, the first cheetah was maybe 20 meters behind the bok, closing by, and I still donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know how they manage to miss it, the others could have ran on a parallel path and block the bok further on. Anyway, they missed !
Now they are back again lying under their tree. After a short while they decide to move and start walking towards the road way ahead of us, then cross the road and disappear in the dunes Ã¢â‚¬Â¦The hell of a good sighting, even if I could not manage a good photo Ã¢â‚¬Â¦
Only shade was the very bad behavior from one of the cars also there : a big grey Toyota, with large stickers Ã¢â‚¬ËœKalahari SafariÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ on the sides. This driver did not say Ã¢â‚¬ËœhiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ or Ã¢â‚¬ËœcheersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, although we were the first ones to spot the cheetahs and showed them. Then when the cheetahs started walking ahead of us, to finally cross the road, this driver went all the way in front just in the middle of the road and did not let us (or the other 2 cars who had joined) go on front (of course the best place to watch and get a good photo of the cheetahs crossing the road). So people who like organized stuff, I suggest you contact this Ã¢â‚¬ËœKalahari SafariÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ : you will have the best seats on all sightings. As for respect of others or politeness, it is another matter but who cares, you come to South Africa to watch animals, not be friendly Ã¢â‚¬Â¦I was (still am) very upset !
Anyway life goes on and we have 90 kms to drive in 3hours, which is going to be hardÃ¢â‚¬Â¦On the way back, I recognize the tree of the morning and guess what : the cat is still there on the same branch !!! Then we meet the giraffes, impossible to miss when they walk in the river bed ! A big male starts smelling the arse of a female and goes back Ã¢â‚¬Â¦Bad boy !
We have a short break at the picnic area : a red eyed bulbul, not shy at all, comes towards the car, lays on the mirror and is about to enter the car. Beautiful bird and quite funny behavior for a very close sighting Ã¢â‚¬Â¦
We arrive on time at the gate, quite tired actually by this long drive Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ we meet Caroline and Craig at the restaurant later and finish with a drink together