Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The most amazing Etosha morning drive ever!

Every now and then, you get one of those days - one of those days that everything works together - and turns out to be a day you will never forget.  The morning of 2 October 2014 (which also happen to be me and Renate's 5th anniversary) was one of those days.  This blog post is an account of our amazing morning game drive on 2 October 2014, at Halali (Etosha National Park).

We were spending 9 nights in Etosha National Park, with great friends (Tiaan & Catherine de Wit, Felix & Delia Reinders and Cilliers & Kotie Enslin).

As a ritual, me and Felix would sit the evening before and do our planning for the following morning's game drive.  As we already spent a few days in the area we were able to spot some patterns in the local wildlife's movements, so the planning was an exciting time of preparation.  The previous day we noticed that all the herbivores headed down to the waterholes just after 10 o'clock, and that there were 3 female lions hanging around the Sueda - Salvadora - Charitsaub trilogy of waterholes to the south-west of Halali Camp.  We witnessed the lions ambushing their prey from the grass surrounding Salvadora waterhole - and saw them fail at an attempted hunt.  (see photos).

The failed attempt at Salvadora the previous day

In our planning, we knew that the 3 lionesses were hungry - so the centre of our planning process was to be at the trilogy of waterholes at 10h00.  That gave us about 3 hours of game drive before we got there.

As we are all suffering from leopardophilia, we decided to head for the woodland area towards the south-east enroute to Goas waterhole early morning.  Thereafter we will try our luck for leopard at Nuamses waterhole, after heading to the plains closer to the pan in the hope of stumbling across cheetah on our way to the 3 waterholes where we expect some lion action! This was the plan........and my oh my.......!!!!!

So, we are out of the gates as soon as they opened, the morning of 2 October 2014, full of expectation, heading through the woodland towards Goas waterhole.  After about 10 minutes we stumbled across 2 hyenas, but Felix decided to move on, we are anticipating a leopard after all!  After about 5 minutes we received a sms from Felix: "Leopard!" We left the hyenas there and immediately rushed towards Felix a few kilometers ahead, to find a beautiful male leopard strolling through the woodland to our right.  We followed him for about 10 minutes, whereafter he disappeared into the deeper bushes.
The leopard close to Goas

We then moved on towards Nuamses waterhole a bit further south - where another awesome sighting awaited us.  There we found a mating pair of lions, "slap bang" in the middle of the parking area of the waterhole!  They were extremely relaxed, until a breeding herd of elephants arrived for a drink at the waterhole... What a morning so far, it is only 8h00 and we already saw hyena, leopard, lions mating and a breeding herd of elephants disturbing the lions!

Nuamses mating couple

Watching the herd of elephants arriving at Nuamses waterhole

Lioness at Nuamses waterhole

Elephants disturbing the lions at Nuamses

We decided to make a quick stop again at Halali to celebrate our sightings with an ice cream - and make a quick stop at the rest room as we were anticipating a long wait at the waterholes between 10h00 and 13h00!

So, we are off again.
Arriving at Rietfontein, could you believe it - CHEETAH! It was relaxing next to the waterhole, had a drink after a few minutes and moved off.  It was the first and only cheetah for the trip, and what a beaut!

Cheetah at Rietfontein waterhole

We headed on towards the 3 spectacular waterholes to see if the lions were in town, but without getting too far we spotted a splendid female leopard relaxing in a small Mopane tree, right next to the road! Could today get any better?  As it was 9h30 in the morning, the temperatures starting soaring, and the shade of the overlanding truck was just to inviting for the leopard - as she jumped out of the tree, and guess what, came to lie in the shade of the overlanding truck, about 3meters away from us! Crazy relaxed!  The only way the tourists were able to get a view of her was by attaching a GoPro camera to a stick and filming the leopard in the shade behind the truck!  After a crowd started to form, we decided to move on...

Leopard close to Rietfontein

In the shade of the truck!

A quick stop at Salvadora (where we saw the unsuccessful hunt the previous day) revealed no lions, so we knew they must be at Charitsaub / Sueda.  We saw the plains game still grazing lazily quite a distance away, but knew they would come for a drink as the African sun started to bake the earth. Arriving at Charitsaub, a quick scan through the grasses surrounding the waterhole revealed the same 3 lionesses as yesterday, starting their ambush yet again!  At about 10h20 the herd of wildebeest started moving in...and we knew...LET THE ACTION BEGIN!

The lions waited a while, until a whole bunch of wildebeest were in the middle of the waterhole, before striking with an immense rush of speed! Chaos!! Wildebeest running everywhere.  Splashing water. The lions focussed on one target, and we thought this was it, as the lions were closing the gap on the wildebeest.  When less than a meter away, the lioness went for the strike / trip....but she missed!! Oh no!  When looking at the photos, you can see the lioness missed by a few centimeters, and you cannot believe that the wildebeest got away!  Lucky for the wildebeest though...

Peace at Charitsaub waterhole

No more peace at Charitsaub!

She missed by a few centimeters, and the wildebeest got away

The embarrased lionesses

After the attack all the plains game decided to rather go and drink at Salvadora waterhole, leaving the embarrassed lions behind...

We had all these amazing sightings between 7h00 - 12h00, 5 hours of Etosha magic, at it's best, and this on our 5th anniversary to top it all!


Anton Kruger

All photos Copyright Anton Kruger

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