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Cats' life: Sabi Sand, Timbavati, Chobe, Okavango


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Did William tell you what gave the lioness her injury?


The wound was very fresh so William did not know for sure but he suggested that it was a fight for food. Here is the same lioness a few hours later (PM drive). The wound became drier and looked much better



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"It is a very interesting couple. She is very old (approximately 15-16 years) lioness that lost her pride, and he is not dominant male. He lives in this area but he never marks and never roars so that he does not get attention of the male coalition. He is very very quiet. These two started to hunt together." You may not have seen a jaguar but you saw a "cougar!"


Did you see the wounded lioness again? Wondered how the healing came along. I've been shocked at how quickly they heal up.


3 drives, no lions is a record? That shows the prolific lion activity in the area.


How nice the kudu posed for you and did not stick his head in the bushes.

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Did you see the wounded lioness again? Wondered how the healing came along. I've been shocked at how quickly they heal up.



Yes, we saw her again. Please see post#26. It is the same lioness a few hours later.



3 drives, no lions is a record? That shows the prolific lion activity in the area.


Kirkman's Kamp is very spoiled in terms of predators sightings :). If everything is OK, I really hope to go back in June.

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Day 6. PM.


We started the drive with checking how lions were doing. They were still enjoying a nap:






Some of them were spending time grooming each other




We stayed with lions for awhile but when they started to move to absolutely horizontal position so we continued our drive




The leopard orchid



The goal was to find a fresh rhino track and to track rhino on foot.


The ranger and the tracker were discussing if the track was fresh enough




At the end they decided that it was worth to try and William suggested me to write a will to take everything I needed so that we could start walking. There were a few pretty straight forward rules (I know that the majority of users here know all those rules much better than I do but I gave this report link to my friends so I am providing them with some details) :

  1. Don’t run unless your guide tells you to run
  2. Walk right behind the guide
  3. One finger snap means “Attention!”, two finger snaps mean “Freeze!”. There should be no movement after two finger snaps even if one foot is still in the air.

I was walking behind the guide and the tracker. Somehow they managed to walk very quietly and, I swear, I managed not to miss any single dry branch or grass. My heart was also beating pretty loudly. I guess we needed a deaf rhino. Ten minutes after we started I noticed slight movement of something black in bushes. I have very good imagination so immediately I had a picture in my mind how the rhino was just standing there and deciding who he was going to smash first. But by the time I snapped fingers to get some attention, a warthog went out of the bush and I could breathe normally.


It was extremely interesting to watch guide and tracker. They showed me the mud pool where the rhino was rolling, than the tree where the rhino was scratching himself, then the fallen tree where the rhino was scratching his belly. The guide was constantly checking the wind to make sure that it was favorable for us. Somewhere in the middle we actually realized (OK, guys realized and I was told :) ) that we were tracking two rhinos (a mother and an approximately one year calf).


When we actually found them it was such an amazing moment. I had tears of happiness in my eyes and I thought I could have stayed there forever… but behind guide’s back :), he was quietly trying to pull me forward so that I could have a better view, but I was quietly resisting as there was such a nice tree nearby. I decided that if the rhino was not happy with us, I would climb that tree (I do rock climbing regularly so it did not seem to be a hard task) and I would let the guide to do some type of rhino whispering.


The calf was trotting playfully around his mom; the big rhino was calmly grazing grass. At some point rhino decided to change her direction so she turned around and started to move slowly towards us still grazing grass but we walked away slowly and quietly. I did not make any pictures as I totally forgot about the camera.


After the rhino tracking we continued to drive around.


Impala with the baby




Elephant bull




A buffalo herd




William parked a car on a safe distance but buffaloes were curious and they were coming VERY close maybe only couple meters away. It made me little bit nervous as I was remembering that buffalo was one of the most dangerous animals. To illustrate the point couple of them were playing a fight right near the car






While others were resting




When it became pretty dark buffaloes became very playful and quite a few of them started to run around and chase each other bucking as if they were practicing for the bull riding. I think the nearest seismograph station might have registered an earthquake :).


There was a poor hippo in bushes; he could not make his way to water because of running and playing buffaloes



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@betel, what a great account of the rhino tracking - very funny and it sounds very rewarding!

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The rhino tracking sounds like it was fun, I think it would be easy to forget to take photos and just enjoy the moment.

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@@bettel the lions looked really sleepy! and i agree with @@PT123, you made rhino tracking sound like a whole lot of fun.

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Lots of lions in the rain + a great description of the rhino tracking

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Loving your report, when can we have more?

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enjoyed the rhino tracking very much @@bettel

Must have been a really special moment if you forgot to take photos.

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For me this rhino tracking was the most memorable moment for the whole trip.


I mean the whole trip was more than I could expect, but this particular experience was totally outstanding. I think it is so great to watch an animal when it does not know that you are there.



Sorry, I was slow on the report last few days (it all because of work :( ) but I will try to continue today.

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Day 7. Morning.


The night beforeб when we were already going to start moving back to campб we stopped to get out the light. And while the tracker and the guide were busy with this task, I was listening to nature around. “I think somebody is breathing very heavily nearby” I said. Both guys got frozen for a moment and then with the comment “It is not breathing, it is an impala alarm clock” everybody got quickly back to their seats and we drove to check what was going on. Unfortunately we did not find anything. But we decided to return in the morning when it would not be as dark.


So we came back and we found a leopard track but no sign of leopard presence or a kill so we went to check buffalos as lions might be nearby. We did not find buffaloes either but we found very interesting tracks: running buffalo and a lot of lions track around. The ground was dug, the bush around was flattened. Obviously we decided to track lions. But they were illusive. There were a lot of tracks but we (together with another car) were moving around with no success. At the end we found out that lions crossed the river.


To compensate for absence of lions, hyena was crossing the river in our direction:






Plus we saw couple hippos on the river bank (I was always thinking that I have a horse, but after I saw these guys I realized that I actually have a hippo)




Soon we received a call that other lions were found and we went there. The guide told that it was going to be smelly as lions were feeding on a dead elephant that probably died 5 or 6 days ago. “Smelly” was not the right word. The smell was so bad that even with four layers of cloth on my face (I converted my buff into a face mask) and with me breathing through the mouth I had tears in my eyes. I was feeling bad for the tracker who was seating at least couple meters closer.


But we found lions. They were fat :)




But from time to time one of them would wake up and try to eat little bit more






William told that rangers would have very unpleasant task this day. They would have to come here again, chase lions away, cut the elephant head and take it away. Then they would bury it for couple weeks so that ants and other insects could help to remove tusks. It definitely did not sound like a job I wanted to do.


Unlike his usual behaviour, William soon started to say that we need to go. I decided that he might not feel good because of the smell and agreed. But I found that it was not the reason. There was a surprising breakfast in the bush:




Pancakes were delicious




After the game drive I was moved to Ngala.

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You really bring the rhino tracking to life and I am not surprised you did not take any images. You enjoyed the moment and the pictures and feelings will remain in your mind to recall at anytime.


Super report. Thank you

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This looks like a really great first safari experience - you're getting a bit of everything and having some great sightings. Lions and leopards everywhere and lots of interesting stuff in between. I am not surprised you want to go back!


Edit: Oh, and the eyes on that last lion are beautiful!

Edited by pault
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What a first day on safari - you saw a lot and to spend that much quality time with a leopard is great. These are absolutely beautiful shots of the leopard and the leopard turtle. Also, I really like the facial picture of the kudu. If you think of it can you also post a picture or two of the camp where you stayed?


Actually it's not a leopard tortoise, it's a Hinged tortoise of the genus Kinixys, I'n not sure about the species it could be K. spekii or K. belliana. You were treated with plenty of sightings in Sabi! Looking forward to the Okavango and Chobe parts of the trip!

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wilddog, thank you for reading.


pault, I think, I was lucky as I saw much more than I expected.


egilio, all reserves and parks were very kind to me :). I can't even say what is my favorite part. I loved them all.




Day 7. PM


After a morning drive I was transferred to Ngala Tented Camp. Originally when I was booking my tour I booked a private vehicle for one day and I was going to be with other tourists for other two days. But the great experience with William made me to rethink this, I decided to try to book a private vehicle for at least one more day and I mentioned this to William when we were discussing my plans. He was again the best. He called to Ngala and told them that I wanted to extend a private vehicle; he also told them that I liked to walk so it would be nice if they could assign a Senior Ranger to me. And Ngala was very good, not only they gave me ranger that really liked to walk but they also suggested that if I paid for two days for a private vehicle they would give me the third day for free. I was more than happy.


After arriving to Ngala and signing the usual “If I am killed by lions, it is all my fault” paper I was escorted to my tent. I was shocked. I would never call anything like this “tent”. It was bigger than my apartment :)


Sleeping area






Bathroom area:






Outdoor shower




In the afternoon I met the ranger and we discussed what I wanted to see. I told him that I really wanted to see a cheetah as it was my last chance, I was going to Botswana after Ngala and I was told that cheetahs were very rare there. Derek told that in average they saw cheetahs once per week or two in summer so we would need some luck. Ok, maybe I would have to come to South Africa again :).


We started with kudu and warthogs:






And then we found lions. They were two sisters and a brother. Ngala had had a big Birmingham pride with four or five adult lionesses and seventeen sub adult lions around 3-3.5 years old. The area was controlled by a coalition that had consisted of three male lions. Birmingham pride was very successful in hunting, as per the guide, they were eating meat every day. Slowly the male coalition came to the end of their prime: first one brother was killed, then another, and then a new male came and took over the area. It happened right before I came. The new male was not strong enough to kill youngsters but he scared them a lot and they ran away in a few groups (each has 3 to 5 lions). We saw these groups all over the reserve.


Two lionesses were resting in shade




Their brother was thinking if he should join




He decided that he should




But it is still hot even being in shade




Punks are not dead




After lions we came across couple sub adult male rhinos. They were shy and wanted to escape so we did not follow them too long








And then a miracle happened. We received a call that cheetahs were walking through the reserve but they were heading towards a border with Kruger and they were pretty far from where we were so Derek told me to hold for my dear life as we are going to drive fast.


And we managed to see them! 5 adult cubs! Their mom left them not long ago as she decided that they were good enough for their adult life. But they were still together.










They were waiting for us 50 meters away from the border! We spent with them quite a lot of time as cheetahs are my favourite cats.


On our way to a cocktail place we met waterbucks (yes, I like animal portraits :), I can do nothing about this passion):






And we also saw bush babies on our drive back to camp, this was a real treat.

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@@bettel I'm glad that Ngala delivered for you and had some good cheetah viewing. I visited there a couple of years ago and saw lions a plenty but no rhino - thanks for the beautiful shots! It sounds like you liked the camp (which looks pretty nice indeed)!

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"tented camp" is an underwhelming description for the Ngala lodge. it looks pretty comfy and lux to me, and im very glad for you that they were very flexible on the PV arrangement.

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Glad you got your cheetah - beautiful

Good rhino pictures

I am glad to see that there is a "Birmingham" pride - I wonder how they got that name?

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@@bettel I'm glad that Ngala delivered for you and had some good cheetah viewing. I visited there a couple of years ago and saw lions a plenty but no rhino - thanks for the beautiful shots! It sounds like you liked the camp (which looks pretty nice indeed)!


"tented camp" is an underwhelming description for the Ngala lodge. it looks pretty comfy and lux to me, and im very glad for you that they were very flexible on the PV arrangement.


I liked the reserve a lot, but the camp was too luxury for me. I think it breaks little bit the spirit of being in the bush :)



I am glad to see that there is a "Birmingham" pride - I wonder how they got that name?


I did not ask, I hope it is not because these lions ate a tourist from Birmingham :)

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Day 8.


As usually, the wake up time is 5 am. The only difference with Kirkman is that in Ngala they bring a coffee tray to your tent while in Kirkman you need to walk yourself to the dining area.


Coffee tray:




The morning drive was quiet. Although the whole night lions were calling each other, we could not find them. Based on tracks lions were moving towards cheetahs, but at the end there were no cheetahs and no lions. But there were a lot of other animals:










After a while we decided to change the activity and to walk. Derek found some fresh tracks of rhinos and we started. We were looking for those sub adults rhinos that we saw the day before. Unlike my first rhino tracking experience, these guys were not going to stay on the same spot; they were moving and moving and moving. And to make it more complicated they were moving through some thick bush so Derek would not allow me to go there as it could be too dangerous. Derek and I were walking around and a tracker was following actual rhinos’ tracks. Based on tracks rhinos were trotting so the ranger suggested that they had probably smelled us as there were a few moments when the wind was in their favor. We climbed a hill and we were actually able to see rhinos far ahead of us running away. There was no sense to continue so we got back to the car. After all it was a good way to stretch legs.


After the walk we found the herd of buffalos near the waterhole.








There also were some giraffes






The evening game drive started with the road that was blocked




After we found our way through, we found an ostrich




And then we found lions




Lions were watching buffalos




At the beginning they were watching buffaloes standing and then they decided that it was better to watch buffaloes in more comfortable position.




Everything was quiet and then rhinos came (these are rhinos that we were tracking in the morning)




Rhinos took a look around




And they decided that lions looked too comfortable, they needed to be moved




Lions were not going to argue with rhinos (who would?)




After lions, rhinos noticed us and came to check what we were up to. They came VERY close; I was almost ready to join lions in their escape




But rhinos decided that we were OK and they went to check buffaloes (rhinos were obviously in very curious mood)




And they came back to us again as we moved closer to buffaloes




I immediately remembered the joke “Rhinos have very bad eyes, but with their weight of 3 tones, it is actually not their problem”


At the end rhinos decided there was nothing interesting around and they left.


And we stayed with buffalos




But we did not stay too long as mother of this calf was pretty nervous about us and she was constantly moving between the calf and the car trying to understand if we are dangerous for her baby or not. We did not want to provoke her.


We went back to lions but the only movement there was a male moving closer to his sisters






And after these lions we went to another subgroup of Birmingham pride. There was a pretty funny/adrenaline moment there. One of the young lionesses came and lay down very close to the car. There was maybe only 40 centimeter distance between her nose and vehicle. She was young and very curious. So she was constantly moving her eyes from one face in the car to another. And then she started slowly changing her position, she was bringing her hind legs under her body (Sphinx position) and her face expression became even more playful but more attentive at the same time. I think the ranger was not sure about what she was going to do next as he preferred to move vehicle further away from her. I think that evening we had a record for animals that were wanting to get close to the car (rhinos, buffalo and a lioness)

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Day 9. Morning.


This day was pretty memorable as I was almost robbed, actually two times in a row. I should have listened to all those people who were telling me about crimes in South Africa more attentively.


I was eating my lunch and reading a book at the same time. It was “Don’t look behind” by Peter Allison, so I was laughing and was not paying too much attention on what was going around. And then suddenly a monkey with a baby jumped on my table and tried to steal by sandwich. So with my one hand I grabbed my plate and with another hand I grabbed my sandwich, and I jumped away, I decided that the monkey would not be interested in stealing my book :). Five minutes later the money tried to make the second attempt :), but I was watching.


I must say that day was rich on unexpected interactions with wild animals. In the morning we decided to do some walking without any specific purpose, just to stretch legs. And we almost walked into an elephant bull. He was standing very very quietly behind thick bush so we noticed him only when he decided to have some snack and started to eat branches. We still had pretty good distance between us, but the wind was in elephant’s favor so we had to move away pretty fast.


During our drive we say again some giraffes:




Some of them were resting




Derek immediately told that is a very peaceful scenery but it means that there are no predators nearby.


Then we went to check a waterhole but there were only vultures there




And then we found two different subgroups of Birmingham pride. One consisted of three sisters without any brothers. That was probably why they were fat and lazy :)






We did not spend too much time with them as they were just sleeping.


The other subgroup consisted of two lionesses with a lion. First we found one lioness and a male lion and then we heard a call and in a few minutes the second lioness appeared






Sisters were very glad to see each other







After the meeting they started to move and their brother followed them




As it was pretty late we stopped for breakfast



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I am glad to see that there is a "Birmingham" pride - I wonder how they got that name?


I did not ask, I hope it is not because these lions ate a tourist from Birmingham :)



If that was the case the poor lions would be very sick! ;)


Nice trip report - some great photos of Africa in the green season. Looking forward to seeing Chobe.

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Breakfast looks nice - and the cookies (it's nearly lunch time here :P)


Young giraffe sitting down is a great sighting - but you're having many.


Good thinking to drop your book - you are clearly cool under pressure.

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Breakfast looks tempting! Funny story on the monkey. Talking about crimes - I remember in the asilia camps, all food items and candy were confiscated when we arrived. and all because of a honey badger that bit its way into a tent and into the luggage for a packet of candy.

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