Cat House

Nancy Vandermey, Author
South Africa Trip September-November 2017

The next morning we hung out at Lesholoago #2 after the people there left, to take a shower and get water. We had company from a jackal and birds, and then returned to #1 for a lazy afternoon. October 3rd we drove down to Monamadi pan, with lots of bat eared fox, and leopard and caracal tracks. From there we went to Mpaya, and the people who just left #2 told us the lions were there, so we went and hung out at the A frame reading and playing cards until a French couple in a unimog (super high vehicle) came up and said they could see a male lion in the grass that we couldn't see. Back to the car, and a swedish couple joined us to watch various pride members (2 males 2 females 3 cubs) come and go to get water. Around 4:30 we headed back to Lesholoago, a little worried we would run out of diesel the next day. A jackal sat with us that night at our campfire (no, we didn't feed him). Our camera trap caught a brown hyena coming to the water we set up. The next morning we headed out via Monomadi, with more bat eared fox, gnu, kori bustard, and the only spotted hyena we saw in KTP this trip. Heading south to Bosobogolo we saw a large herd of eland including young, they were very shy. Thanks to the cool temperatures and rain the drive back to the South Africa side was smooth and fast, only 4.5 hours from signpost to signpost. We got to Nossob at noon, luckily we could check in to the premium campsite already and take hot showers! It was raining a bit, but stopped for a game drive north. Just springbok and wildebeest at the waterholes, heading back south a wildcat ran across the road in front of us, then we found two lionesses in the riverbed. We got back to Nossob in time to head down to Marie se Draii loop, and found mating lions. It was raining again by then, and continued most of the night. The morning was misty, we went south again but just lots of lion tracks, fresh cheetah tracks too but no luck. Time to head to the far north, lots of general game, hartebeest carcass north of Grootkolk with a jackal holding off 30+ vultures. We heard of 5 cheetah at Unions End picnic site, by the time we got there they were farther in the bush and never came too close. We met a nice couple, Piet and Sandra, who were also at Gharagab that night We went to the Unions End signpost for a picture and then headed in to Gharagab, with oryx & hartebeest families with young at the waterhole. At camp we watched springbok, steenbok, and jackals at the waterhole, and could hear lions at night. finches attacking a breakfast rusk On the way out in the morning we saw more baby oryx and bat eared fox but not much else. Heading back north there was no hartebeest carcass, and no cheetahs. At Unions End picnic sight we found a family trying to start a fire with a camera lens, they were grateful we had matches. Danie, Nola, Vikas, and Sunae invited us to join their skottle breakfast, it was very yummy! It turns out that they had cancelled one chalet at Grootkolk that night, which I had picked up just a few weeks before our trip started. Thanks again! Heading to Grootkolk we came across two young male lions in the road. Frankie the Grootkolk attendant said mom was trying to kick them out of the pride now that she had new cubs. We went out again at 5 pm, the two boys were still there, but now two females were further up the road and thinking of hunting wildebeest. At camp we were invited to dinner at the shared kitchen and brought our sloppy joes to share with the pap and braii feast the Theron family cooked up. It was our latest night the whole 9 weeks, we weren't in bed until 11 pm. There were lions and hyenas calling at night but we couldn't find them in the morning. We headed south to more bat eared fox, Ludwig's bustards, and jackal. We got to Polentswa #3 early, it was empty already so we hung out there. Lots of birds including violet eared waxbill. We drove to the lodge and had a drink, it was empty but they were expecting guests. The Botswana park guy said they were having issues with campsite hijackers. We did a drive south to Kwang with the usuals, best sighting was a brown hyena at Polentswa waterhole at 6:30 pm so not dark yet. We got back to #3 just before 7 and had to kick someone out of our site, he slept on the road just down from us, we reported him the next day. violet eared waxbill polentswa lodge deck African hoopoe polentswa #3 Heading south the next day we came across two big male lions north of Kwang. It was early so they were basking in the sun, we stayed until it got hot and they moved into the shade. It was too early to head to Bitterpan, at a pit stop at Nossob we heard of a cheetah at Marie se Draii so off we went. We were looking so hard for cats we found two lion far off under a tree! 2 km later we found the cheetah too, also far off. On the road to Bitterpan at first there was just a young male kudu and steenbok, but farther on we found groups of hartebeest and oryx. Camp was OK, not our favorite - small bed area, private bath but across a walkway, only a shared kitchen, waterhole not lit. We headed out via Mata Mata and found 2 male lion on a ridgeline posing near the former Strathmore waterhole. Nearer the Auob we see steenbok, oryx, birds. Coming out at Craig Lockhart there is a wildcat in a tree. At Mata Mata we walk into Namibia to the farmstall (almost stepping on a dwarf beaked snake in the road) and pet their housecat. Leaving MM there's another wildcat posing high in a tree. The photogenic juvenile martial eagle is still around, and a large group of male kudu and ostrich also pose. We go as far as Auchterlonie before heading to check in at Kielekrankie. dwarf beaked snake ludwig's bustard Kieliekrankie Willem the attendant tells us of a cheetah that killed an oryx 2km south of Auchterlonie, so we head straight back out. We find the carcass on the hillside opposite the riverbed, 2 cars in attendance, no cat. We wait as cars some and go and finally the cat stands up at 4:30 pm and starts to feed. He eats and attempts to move the carcass, plopping at 5:30, so we head in. We return at 6 am and watch him for 3 hours feeding and keeping a jackal and crows off the carcass. He is a big male known as Fancy. We return to Kielekrankie for a relaxing afternoon of laundry and views, the chalet is very nice. Oryx, ostrich, and jackal come to drink, and a colorful bird caught bugs. We named it an Emerson's Tinkerdink, about as good as the real name, Bokmakierie. At 3 pm we do a loop Kij Kij - Leeudril - Samvoelung - TR - cheetah, who is still there. A bat eared fox greets us on the way back to Kieliekrankie. Star photos are attempted that night. The next morning we check again but both cat and carcass are gone. Heading north, there's both cape fox and bat eared fox, and huge springbok herds. We go south to TR and at Leeudril there is a ton of game - 20+ wildebeest, 30-40 ostrich with juveniles, 40+ oryx, and springbok. There is fighting, lots of action. We go to Rooiputs #3 and have lunch, at 1:45 we head up to Kij Kij and find lions mating. We stay with them quite a while, heading back to Rooiputs the cape fox is out but no kits. In camp are a herd of wildebeest, oryx, and ostrich. We hear hyena at night, our last night in the rooftop tent. border marker for south africa border marker for botswana We try sitting at Leeudril in the morning, just jackal, birds, springbok. We see both a mottled yellow and bright yellow cobra heading north. The mating lions are still together but lazing in the shade. We head over the lower dune road and find Hanri the cheetah feeding on a springbok at 12:22 pm just below Bataluma, she made the kill at 11 am. We then see our one and only warthog in KTP, the posing juvenile martial eagle again, check into Urikaruus honeymoon suite, return the borrowed blanket, and relax. At 5 we head south, with a pretty cape fox on the way to the carcass, no cheetah just yet. Some cars give up, she comes out at 5:45 to feed, we stay until 6:12. We see 4 white face scops owls, a cobra-crow fight, and then a PELICAN in a tree! Just a jackal comes to the watherhole during dinner. We plan to take shifts staying up hoping to see a caracal, at 10 pm there is noise - 2 leopards come to drink! We think it's a mom & cub at first but really it's a big male named Dakotah and an unidentified female. Friday the 13th, our last day in the park. We head north, nothing at 13th borehole, at the top of the loop though we see tracks of more than one cheetah, heading south on the dune road. We love this park for the sand roads that allow you to track animals. We followed them to where they left the road in line with the waterhole, so we returned there to wait. In the meantime we were entertained by Lanner falcons hunting doves - both falcons think they caught the same dove at one point. The whole time we were sitting watching the birds, I could hear chirping noises that sounded like cheetah, except it was nonstop! It was coming from behind a small rise between the waterhole and the dune road. A car came from the north and said there was a cheetah in the riverbed 5 km up - but then my husband saw a cheetah right across from us briefly. We drove around and found two males on the dune road, then they walked south in the riverbed, still chirping. After marking a tree, one broke into a jog - they spotted something - a 3rd cat jumped into a tree! Was it a female cheetah avoiding the two males? Nope, it was a leopard, a 3 year female known as Itumaleng. She got comfortable, hissing at the boys. Not what the males were looking for apparently. They hung around but left shortly, heading back north. By this time there were 7-8 cars at the sighting, most followed the cheetah but 3 of us stayed with the leopard. She jumped down, marked the tree, ran across the riverbed, and went up into the dunes. Meanwhile the cheetah headed back north towards 13th borehole so we drove around and waited for them there. They drank for a while, then went back into the depression they had been chirping from earlier. We headed north, looking for the 3rd cheetah, and found it trotting south, also chirping. He went onto the ridgeline, then ran to his brothers. The reunion was anticlimactic, no head rubs like lions, they just laid down together in the shade, too tired to hunt the springbok and wildebeest around. There was nothing to the north, heading south there were 3 lion at Bataluma including the big male with the blind eye. At the Twee Rivieren waterhole were two male lions snoozing. We checked in and packed and did laundry, at 5 pm we checked on the lions and they had killed a wildebeest against the camp fence! It was quiet at Samvoelung, Leeudril, and Rooiputs, just the usuals. We had dinner at the restaurant, the springbok pie was very good. In the morning we just drove down to Upington for our flight to Joburg, spending the night at the City Lodge at the airport.

Page 1 - Cape Town, Kgalagadi part 1
Page 2 - Kgalagadi part 2
Page 3 - Kruger part 1
Page 4 - Kruger part 2