December 6th --
We woke up early at Nossob and loaded the car up as we were headed to Kalahari Tented Camp for the night. Before leaving Nossob, we decided to check the hide and were glad we did as there were three lions there drinking at the waterhole -- two juvenile cubs and a young adult (presumably female, although it was still pretty dark out, and the light was no good for photos yet). They only stopped momentarily at the waterhole for a drink and then kept walking purposefully, heading south. We thought this was a good omen and as we drove south on the Nossob Road we looked intently for them and again for the lions we had seen the previous evening. But all the way to Dikbaardskolk we did not see much of anything. We were about to turn to go west and start heading toward the Aoub side, but at the last minute decided to keep heading south a few more kilometers just to see if the lions were around anywhere.
About 5 to 7 kms south of Dikbaardskolk shortly after 8AM, Mark said "Can you back up a little? I think I saw something that looked like a cheetah." Of course at this point in our trip we had had many of these moments where one of us thought we saw something only to get out the binocs and realize the "lion" was really a termite mound or the "cheetah" was really a dead branch -- we started calling them "leopard-rocks" and "lion-trees" when this happened. Nevertheless, any time either of us thought we might have seen something, we always double-checked, because you never know.
So I backed up a few meters and here is what we saw:
Yay! It was a female cheetah with three juvenile cubs resting in the shade near the side of the road.
They weren't doing much, but the mother was gazing interestedly at a herd of springbok far off in the distance, so we decided to wait for a while and see what might happen. After 30 minutes or so she stood up...
...and started walking slowly going south toward the faraway springbok.
The cubs were following several paces behind their mother.
Another car coming from the opposite direction pulled up directly in front of us and began to take photos of the cubs. Finally the mother cheetah decided to cross to the other side of the road getting closer to the springbok, so she was on the east side of the road where the riverbed was and her cubs were on the opposite side of the road. Unfortunately the other vehicle at this sighting decided to back up
(following the cubs in the direction they were walking, southward), and going in reverse (instead of turning around), they positioned themselves directly in the road between the mother and her cubs
, so the mother immediately turned around and returned to the cubs -- but not before the other vehicle almost ran her over going backwards!!
At this point Mark and I practically had steam coming out of our ears. Not only had they ruined a lovely sighting, but what was worse, they had interfered with the mother's potential hunt, and in the process they had come very close to hitting the mother with their vehicle!! I took a few deep breaths and asked Mark to pull up next to the other vehicle.
As we pulled up, I explained as politely as I could that the mother had been getting ready to hunt, but that when they got between her and her cubs, she had stopped and returned to them, and that their vehicle had come very close to hitting her. We suggested as nicely as we could that they try to avoid getting between the mother and cubs, and that they give them a little room. "Oh, OK" they said.
By now the mother and cubs were all together again, on the side of the road they had originally started from, resting in the shade of a shrub. We settled down again for what we knew could be another long wait, to see if she would try a second time...