Cat House

Nancy Vandermey, Author
South Africa Trip October/November 2013 part 3

On October 31 we were packed and on the road at 6 am, heading to Nossob. There was a giraffe at the road crossing, lion tracks, and then between the two loops we noticed both a wildebeest and springbok staring at us, which caused us to look up on the dune away from the valley and find these 4 lions (2 females, 2 subadults) The springbok fawns were everywhere And this jackal found a bone to gnaw on We drove all the way to the lower dune road and across, but it was quiet today. We did get a quick glimpse of two more bat-eared foxes running across the road between Dikbaardskolk and Nossob. After checking in at Nossob (chalet #9) we checked out the predator display, note the black-footed cat poster! The hide at Nossob gave us springbok herds Namaqua dove and yellow mongoose At 15:15 we headed north. There were many many dust devils today At Cubitjie Quap we saw sandgrouse and pale chanting goshawk while at Kwang there were doves, oryx, ostrich, jackal, and kori bustard. We hung out there until 17:45 and returned. We went to the hide again, this enterprising fork-tailed drongo had an easy time eating his fill of moths drawn to the waterhole's light We left the hide just minutes before a brown hyena came by. The next morning, November 1, gates opened 5:30. The grader had once again preceded us, leaving a nice smooth road. It was still a bit dark for photos, but we were happy to watch this honey badger with pale chanting goshawk following him in the dim light At Bedinkt waterhole, our first spotted hyena of the trip lay resting near a family of 6 jackals. Glossy starlings at the waterhole The rest of the waterholes north of there had some oryx and springbok, and several wildebeest herds North of Lijersdraai a yellow ribboned car waved us down, it was forumites DassieDelight and PeregrinFalcon. We had a great chat with them, and saw them several times in the next few days, too bad we never overlapped camps. They had very precise directions to trees with African wildcats in them., including one near Union's End (0.7 km south, left slanting tree). Also, another cape fox den south of that. There had been lion the last few days in the Grootkolk camp, we just missed them it seems. A few miles down the road we also chatted with another forumite, Katja. We zipped up to Union's End, saw two more bat eared fox, and then found the tree and wildcat Then we took the obligatory pictures at Union's End (with help from a German living in Chicago) visited the cape fox and the very dry picnic area they have installed gates at all the toilets throughout the park, no more checking for lions first! Back to Grootkolk to check in, we got cabin 2, next to another forumite rjm. There were many lion tracks in camp We set up a birdbath for the weavers and watched a skittish wildebeest herd approach the waterhole KTP Video has 15 short clips, including these wildebeest

while we did our usual afternoon braai with mole snake slithering by We did a short evening drive, nothing but general game. We watched sunset and a wildebeest and jackal at the waterhole. We went to bed early, at 9 pm, missing another brown hyena who came by the waterhole later On November 2nd we were up early as usual, but hung around until 6 am before we left Grootkolk. We went north to Geinab waterhole, nothing going on, so we turned around for the long drive south to Mata Mata. Thanks to the freshly graded road it was easy to tell only one car had preceded us that morning, so when we saw male lion tracks on top of the fresh car tracks we knew they were only 30 minutes old or so. We tracked them along the road for a ways, they had marked a few bushes, then we found where they left the road. There was nothing in sight but I said we should sit a few minutes anyways. Within a minute, we heard roaring, and a male lifted his head across the valley And then walked a little ways The second male appeared and at first settled halfway across the valley But then he decided he needed to check us out and actually ran to the road We moved forward a bit, he came up right were we used to be parked Then he came out on the road a bit past us He crossed the road, re-marked the bush near us, and then stared straight at us (taken through rear side window) So we moved forward again. He actually chased us a little; is this one of the tire-biters? His companion then also approached the road, they got together and flopped about 10m away in some scrub. We reset the odometer so we could let others know where they were (2.6 km north of 2nd loop) as they were only slightly visible. KTP Video has 15 short clips, including this lion

Continuing south, we took the opposite leg of each loop compared to yesterday. Springbok, jackal, and birds were seen. Then, just south of the second loop, there were two cars - cheetah! One female, sitting up, then slinking over next to the log One of the cars must have thought she was flopping, as they left, but she was alert, and we could see a springbok herd headed her way. These next photos make it look like the cat & antelope are quite close together, but these are at full zoom, so it's hard to tell Finally she made her move, but missed! She walked over to some shade to rest On the first (southern) loop we saw another handsome red hartebeest And various game at the waterholes - oryx and secretary bird But in general it was quiet, and soon we were back at Dikkbaardskolk. We met some guys from Cape Town who were just in the park for the day from a nearby "game farm", we didn't ask them what they were hunting. They insisted they had seen 4 leopards together down by Leeuwedril, under a tree. We asked them several times if they meant cheetah, but they insisted they saw leopards. Right. Next we went across the upper dune road. Yay, it had been graded too! Ostrich, korhaan, oryx, and the black headed heron were seen Coming out in the Auob we headed south as far as Auchterlonie. Despite looking in the shade of every tree, we obviously missed the mother/daughter cheetah pair, as on our way back north another car spotted them at the same time we did, just south of Gemsbokplein There was a large herd of springbok just north of there And a young goshawk hunting as well We were finally ready to look for the wildcat tree near Mata Mata DassieDelight and PeregrinFalcon had told us about, but they made it very easy - they were sitting right next to the tree with the cat! They also told us about another cat in a tree 1.5 km north of the 3rd loop, and that one was there as well After 3 static wildcats all found due to the same great couple, we were ecstatic to find our own cat 1.5 km later, walking up the valley like a very proud tomcat A jackal lay at Craig Lockhart And the vultures were still in the trees We finally pulled into Mata Mata at 7:15, over 13 hours after leaving Grootkolk. We were in the riverfront chalet, #6. It's a nice unit, but why can't they put screens on some of the windows!!! Lions had just walked through the riverbed, we missed that. We heard brown hyena, but only saw black backed jackal after dark. On November 3rd we were out at 5:30, there was no wind, the fine dust hung in the air behind each car so we went slow to avoid it. There were many birds, including lilac breasted roller And this raptor having breakfast 2 more bat eared fox ran quickly across the road. The wild cat was still in the tree. We seem to have lost all the other early morning cars at the cape fox dens, so when we came across an odd sighting just past the upper dune road we were alone. These pictures show the range of my zoom lens - at 50mm, you see springbok and an odd shape in the road At 500mm, the odd shape becomes a cheetah One car came up behind us, but they were on their way out so drove past the cheetah, which earned them a look She then went back to watching springbok, but they seemed to know she was there, all turning their heads as they passed her while walking north up the center of the valley Eventually the springbok started running, so the cat went for it halfheartedly, knowing they were too far Then two more springbok gave her some hope, and she reaccelerated But gave up again Then she disappeared in the back valley, we looked from the upper dune road but couldn't find her. I liked her tracks and body impression in the road KTP Video has 15 short clips, including this cheetah

We ran up to Kamqua to use the facilities (it was Sunday, so bring your own toilet paper), and then returned to look for the cheetah again. She wasn't there, but a group of red hartebeest had joined the springbok and were playing Heading south again, there were two cheetah on a kill, the mother/daughter again I think We went back north, seeing the same wildcat, and a honey badger at one of the waterholes who then ran very fast up over the ridge We spent the evening in camp, with starlings hyena yellow mongoose praying mantis and jackal

Part 1 - Planning and Kgalgadi: Twee Rivieren
Part 2 - Kgalgadi: Urikaruus and Kalahari Tented Camp
Part 3 - Kgalgadi: Nossob, Grootkolk, Mata Mata
Part 4 - Kgalgadi: Twee Rivieren and Black Footed Cat group
Part 5 - Kruger: Berg En Dal and Skukuza
Part 6 - Kruger: Nwatimwambu Walking Trail and Lower Sabie
Part 7 - Kruger: Satara
Part 8 - Kruger: Sweni Wilderness Trail
Part 9 - Kruger: Olifants
Part 10 - Kruger: Tamboti and Biyamiti
Part 11 - Notten's Bush Camp