At this point all the days are starting to blend into one. We went out for an evening game drive last night (after being reunited with the other members of our group) but didn’t really see much. We had a braai again for dinner at the Ws place which is a river front chalet. River there is not but there is a flood lit watering hole right in front of their chalet. Their 10-year old is somewhat of a genius at shining their R800 torch though and when the sun had set he found jackal (numerous times) and later in the evening he spotted a hyena making its way to the watering hole as well.
We agreed to do a game drive first thing this morning when the gates opened. The Ws were running slightly late because at 2am Mrs W had gotten up to see what all the noise was about and went onto their patio and shone the torch into a leopard right at the side of their house. It seems both of them got a fright but needless to say after waking up husband and the kids they had quite a lot of excitement and so weren’t quite ready at 7:30am (totally understandable in this case).
The morning drive did yield a fantastic drive though. We saw all the usual on the way out – gemsbok, Springbok & jackal (we have seen so many jackal no one wants to stop for them anymore) but just about 10 km out of Mata Mata there were a few cars and as we pulled up I saw what they were stopped for … lion! And not 1 but many. Turned out to be a pride of 10. And they were active. After tracking them back towards the camp they went down the ridge and we couldn’t see them again. We were about to give up when one of our group radioed (we have cleverly invested in walkie talkies for each car) to say that the lion had turned around and were coming back again. We watched and eventually saw 3 cross the road in front of us. Most of the cars then left as the other 7 had not re-emerged but we hung on and were finally rewarded with the other 7 also crossing. Some of them even tried chewing on the road sign on the way across.
We moved on and saw a large journey of giraffes (24 in total) before eventually turning around and heading back to camp. On our way back in we saw a large number of cars at the watering hole and discovered a male leopard lying in a tree. It then climbed down and started stalking some Springbok nearby. They spotted him and so he gave up with that and just walked up to the watering hole for a long drink and then walked up the ridge and sat down. Another great sighting and so we headed back into camp.
After all the excitement of the morning drive, we decided to go only for a later afternoon drive starting at 4pm. We spent some time leisurely at the two watering holes when another car told the Ms about 5 cheetah in road 10 kms south from where we were. We figured we had enough time to do the 10kms at the speed limit, see the cheetah and make it back to camp. We headed off and after 10kms we realised the person had underestimated the distance. It turned out to be 15 kms down the road and 35 kms from the camp. We arrived at 5:20pm and the gates close at 6pm (and speed limit is 50 km/h). If you’re able to do distance/time calculations you will quickly realise that gave us no time at the sighting. We watched them for about 5 minutes (4 teenagers having a go at each other) and then turned around and headed back.
I forgot to say that on the way to them we had spotted Bat-eared Fox and Honey Badger – both of which were first trip views for us but we couldn’t stop because of lack of time! So on the way back we did a quick stop for a photo of the foxes. That turned out to be a mistake as 2 cars passed us at that point and we had to drive behind them in their dust. We also quickly realised that the distance markers seem to be suspect as despite the fact we were doing more than the speed limit, we didn’t seem to be covering the distance quick enough to get in on time. It became quite treacherous as the dust was so bad and the sun setting in your eyes made it impossible to see the car in front of you or for that matter where the road was. Michael was driving and did a sterling job and so despite his constant abuse over the last few days I will promote him on the blog today.
We realised that if an animal of any reasonable size was in the road we would have a real issue and while we did encounter some giraffe in the road, the guys in front were aware that using their hazards would be a good thing to do and so no one came into any harm. At least one occupant of our car was slightly ‘freaked out’ but the other 3 of us were fine (Helen had skipped the drive). Mr M has been complaining that I never credited his Subaru car properly in the blogs so now might be a good time to say that we think he enjoyed the rally experience coming back into the camp. We are convinced he has watched YouTube videos of how to handle the turns and he was reveling in putting his car through its paces. He also twice drive into a mongoose/squirrel hole in front of our chalet today (I think he was trying to make his point). We made it back at 6:01pm though no one was on the gate at that point (fortunately).
We had a beef potjie for dinner tonight (done by the Ws) and while it was finishing off, we heard a lot of barking from jackals and sure enough their 10-year old son shines the torch onto a leopard being barked at by jackals. Probably the same one they saw last night. The jackals were keeping it in their sight and making howling noises to show they were not impressed. A great day of game sighting finished off by great food and company.
Until tomorrow (which is now today because the power went off before I finished the blog) …
P, M, S, O & H