Wednesday, 15 June 2011

13th June – The Grand Finale: Cheetah!!!

Photo of the Day
Stunningly beautiful female cheetah - what a way to end off!
Morning Drive
(Chad and Herald)
1 x cheetah (relaxed female) – Vielmetter, Elephant Dam
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Vielmetter, Elephant Dam
9 x hyenas (Rockfig Clan feeding on kudu kill) – Vielmetter, Hide Dam

Afternoon Drive
1 x leopard (unknown skittish young male) – Jaydee, Argyle Rd
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Java, Java Camp

Daily Synopsis
Considering all of the amazing things that we had seen the last few days, there was not all that much that my guests wanted to see.  They still had a list for me though: a troop of baboons interacting, a pack of hyenas, white lions, aardvark (thanks to Dave) male lions and cheetah.  I held the most faith with male lions, and decided to head south in the hope that the Machaton Pride would be found with one of the Timbavati males in attendance.  The baboons were possible, but likely to be nervous, and well, the white lions and cheetah would only happen in my dreams.
Heading pretty much straight south along Western Cutline, we had our usual dearth of sightings in the first cool part of the morning, but as the day got marginally warmer, so did our sightings.  I tried to respond to a report of a large herd of wildebeest on Java Airstrip, but they had disappeared by the time I got there.
Not too deterred, I carried on towards Hide Dam where I was informed that I could tick off one of the sightings on the list.  We arrived to the sight of five hyenas of the Rockfig Clan feeding on a kudu carcass that I am quite sure they caught and killed themselves!  Around the outside, there were at least another four hyenas as well as a pair of black-backed jackals.

Rockfig hyena clan and their kudu kill
We watched them for some time as they fed on the kill and interacted in the open clearing around the dam!

Great interaction around the kill
Eventually different members started walking off with different pieces of the kill, but all looked very well fed.

Dragging the carcass away
The matriarch (who looked to be in the advanced stages of her pregnancy – so hopefully an active hyena den will be found soon) took her piece into the water of the dam itself, but when the catfish started pecking on it, she thought it would be wiser to move it out and she dragged it off and we left this rather stunning sighting!

Hyenas with the carcass in the water
I was on a bit of a mission to see a leopard in a tree, so I checked the “leopard spots” of Vielmetter, seeing just the usual impala, warthogs and the odd steenbuck around.  I drove past Vielmetter Camp, where the camp attendant told me that he had just heard a leopard calling near the Geiger’s Cottage a bit further north, so I decided to check there before going towards Elephant Dam for a cup of coffee.
Well, that had been my intention until we drove through Crossing Below Java and saw some fresh tracks of a leopard.  Petros jumped down to examine them, and then told me that these tracks were not for the leopard that was calling.  He hesitantly uttered the words that they for a cheetah, almost not believing what he himself was saying. 
He didn’t need to convince me, and we set about tracking the animal, but didn’t have any luck with the tracks as they moved into a rocky area.  I went for coffee, bypassing impala and warthogs in the area, and seeing a kudu in the distance during our coffee break before going to collect Petros who was still searching for more tracks without luck.
I stopped to move a fallen tree, then we were watching a large plated lizard in the termite mound next to us.  It suddenly ran from the hole and towards another hole before pausing.  Fabian, one of my guests asked “is that a snake?”.  We all replied “no, we could see its legs when it ran away”.  He then added to his sentence and said “no, in the hole!”; and sure enough, there was a snake moving in the hole that the lizard had just ran out of.  As soon as I saw the colour and size, I knew it was an extremely venomous snouted cobra!  Had it bitten the lizard?  We weren’t sure, but it was definitely hunting its four-legged relative, and soon its head popped out of another hole before disappearing back into the mound.  Despite waiting, nothing further happened and we carried on our search for the cheetah, although I was thinking that we were just not going to be that lucky.
Snouted Cobra
A bit further down the road, we saw two Swainson’s spurfowl having a bit of a vicious fight and stopped to watch them.  The mother looked on as her two sons battered and pecked one another before they all scattered.  Seconds later the reason why became evident when a martial eagle came swooping down just above where, an instant before, they had been engrossed in a fight!  Unfortunately for the eagle, he missed the kill, but it was just a bonus for us!
We slowly moved towards Makulu Dam and Makulu Plains, half hoping the cheetah would pop out there as we failed to find any more tracks.  It was there, while watching a herd of waterbuck that I got a radio call.  “Come to Nkhoro Rd, I have one Xkankanka here”; it was Andries from Leadwood Camp, and I was already turned around before he had finished his sentence!

Hmmm; waterbuck or cheetah?  Let me think...Cheetah it is!
Wow, I almost couldn’t believe our luck.  Surely not?  But five minutes later I pulled alongside Andries to view one of the most beautiful animals on the face of the earth; a lithely built, relaxed female cheetah!  I just looked at Petros and shook my head.  I couldn’t believe our run of luck!
It was already late in the morning, so most guides were closed down or far from the area, so we didn’t need to rush, and got to watch this beauty as she moved towards Elephant Dam.

What a sight - a relaxed female cheetah!
She then went and sat on the raised sundowner mound west of the dam, and surveyed the area in typical cheetah fashion.  It was a sight to behold.

Surveying the area from a raised mound in typical cheetah fashion
To make things feel even more unreal, a herd of 30 elephants then arrived to drink at Elephant Dam!  

Herd of elephants arriving at Elephant Dam while watching the cheetah!
We had to swivel between watching the cheetah and the elephants, and it was just a setting we didn’t want to leave.  But sadly aeroplane flights don’t wait, and as my guests were checking out this morning, so we had to leave and head back to the lodge.

What a way to end off a cycle - cheetah on one side and a herd of elephants on the other!
Not for the first time this weekend, I drove back to the lodge with a massive smile on my face, almost struggling to believe what we had seen – yet another amazingly special sighting! 
It was my last drive for the cycle before going on leave, and what a contrast to the way I left at the end of my last cycle!  So from being “Bad Luck Chad”, to stealing the “Chad, Magic Chad” title from Herold was quite a transformation! 
It has been a pretty special cycle for me, with many incredible moments and sightings, and I do hope that you have all enjoyed reading about them on our blog!  I am on leave for a week, so will once again leave you in the capable hands of Grant!  Although I have just had the most fabulous weekend, I am still pretty sure that somehow Grant and Herold are going to find a way to make me jealous again and to wish that I was back in the bush!
Until then, take care and happy “game viewing”!




  1. WOW Chad, what an unbelievable few days your guests had.
    The cheetah is the last thing I would have expected. Well done and enjoy your well deserved leave :)


  2. thanks so much lourens, and thanks for your loyal following of the blog and all your great comments!

    dont always get time to reply to all of them, but do definitely read and enjoy them!!!

    Cheers mate!

  3. Hello Chad

    A dream of light on this cheetah.
    But the scene of the hyena carcass out of the water level is very interesting attitude.
    I loved being there to take pictures.
    Continues to take us through the Timbavati reserve, every day holds new surprises.

    Thank you

    Gene and JP

  4. Unbelieveble, don´t get spoiled. What a great couple of days. Thank you so much for sharing this Chad. Enjou your days off.

  5. Bloody stunning photos! What camera were you shooting with? I'm glad I stumbled across this blog from your Getaway article. I run South Africa Travel Online, and we did a review of Simbavati River Lodge in April - beautiful part of South Africa, and I'd love to go back sometime.