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Cats and Dogs: the eternal story of life


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SafariChick

WOW! I agree with @@graceland - so much drama in one sighting. So glad the male did not harm the cheetah cubs and glad they got a meal - how exciting to watch though I'm sure very sad too.

 

and yes, I think it was the suni antelopes I was thinking of.

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It actually was not the most fantastic cheetah sighting . See below         Day 8. Afternoon.   Devon even did not change his face expression and continued to smile when I asked to find the

Day 3. Morning.   The first thing we found was a male leopard track. The dominant male in the area is Xovonekela, friends can call him Xovo . The only time I saw a male leopard before was in Bot

Do you mean suni? We saw them on the first drive but I was not able to take any pictures because they stayed in thickets and they were quite skittish.           It is a great lodge. The idea of

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Marks

Wow, my heart would have been in my throat. I also had not heard of male cheetahs doing that.

You have certainly been privileged with cheetahs!

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graceland

Wow, my heart would have been in my throat. I also had not heard of male cheetahs doing that.

You have certainly been privileged with cheetahs!

Truly, I may have to re-think next trip if ONLY this could be repeated.....

 

Which I doubt....(no such luck) But, such a thrill for @@bettel !!

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FlyTraveler

Beautiful cheetah interaction, photos and story and a very exciting kill @@bettel! You are so lucky to have witnessed all this! I am enjoying your report very much.

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twaffle

What an exceptional sighting.

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Pennyanne

@bettel You had an amazing safari. Thanks for posting this. I love the cheetah photos.

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Morkel Erasmus

@@bettel you sure had some riveting sightings on your safari!! keep it coming...

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bettel

@@graceland, @@SafariChick, @@Marks, @@FlyTraveler, @@twaffle, @@Pennyanne, @Morkel Rasmus, thank you :). It was definitely one of the most memorable drives.

 



@@bettel I wonder if this is the same sighting that started off your thread? I saw this on the Africa Geographic blog this morning.

http://africageographic.com/blog/lion-takes-down-wild-dog/

 

Yes, this is the guide from MalaMala who watched the scene from another river bank.

 

 

 

Day 9. Morning.

 

In the morning Devon suggested to use an opportunity and to find a cheetah with 4 small cubs as it was impossible to predict how long they would stay in the area. So we went to marsh where the cheetah was seen last.

 

On our way there Nsika found the coalition of two male cheetahs, we noted the spot and continued. Unfortunately, the cheetah with cubs did not know about our plans so she did not quite accommodate them :). We did a big circle around the block. Nothing. But the view was beautiful:

 

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Then we did the second circle around the block looking for possible tracks on the road as well as for the cheetah in high grass. Nothing. Then we did the third circle and at the end Devon told that maybe we had to accept that no cheetah with cubs today and to go to male cheetahs. I was not spoiled enough to wish for exact cheetah so I surely agreed. As soon as we made a plan, Nsika told “Here she is!” and we were able to see the cheetah not far from the road:

 

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She was on a fresh antelope carcass. And then we saw them (whoever does not agree that they are the cutest thing ever should be banned from this trip report lol):

 

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We were expecting them to be 8-9 weeks old (based on what other ranger told Devon) but Devon told that no way they were older than 6-7 weeks and that it was probably one of their first carcasses. I think it was the best sighting of the trip. Although the grass was tall and we obviously could not get too close not to scare the family, cubs did all their best to arrange a show for us. They were chasing each other, climbing their mom, practicing tree climbing skills and trying to eat meat (actually more like licking :))

 

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With mother:

 

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Devon told that little cheetah cubs look very similar to honey badger cubs and that it was probably the result of evolution to protect them from some predators:

 

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Future tree climber:

 

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After the cheetah family we went to take a first look at Phinda lions. They all have Kalahari genes so Phinda lionesses are big (up to 160-170 kilograms) and one of them is actually 220 kilograms and she is the biggest ever weighed lioness. She is so big that she actually made some male lions to run away :).

 

We did not spend too much time with lions as they were obviously settled for the day

 

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As the final part of the morning drive we did some elephant tracking on foot again. It was again two male bulls. This time they were more cooperative and did not go into sick bush too often. Although one time we (at least I :)) almost received a heart attack. We were walking around some thickets (while elephant track went through these thickets) and then there was a sudden and quite loud sound of broken branch nearby. I was ready to fall on the ground and pretend that I was a trunk. But it was a monkey :). This time we managed to catch elephants on more open area so we could see them. But they still did not know that we were there. What a nice end for another excellent morning.

 

Edited by bettel
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Marks

She was on a fresh antelope carcass. And then we saw them (whoever does not agree that they are the cutest thing ever should be banned from this trip report lol):

 

No arguments from me, they are absurdly cute. Your trip has produced more quality cheetah sightings than maybe any I have read.

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bettel

No arguments from me, they are absurdly cute. Your trip has produced more quality cheetah sightings than maybe any I have read.

 

 

I definitely was lucky. Even Devon told that even for him it was the period of one of the best cheetah sightings.

 

 

 

Day 9. Afternoon.

 

Phinda elephants have their own small migration pattern. In winter when there is no rain, they stay in the Northern part of the reserve, in summer they go to the South as grass tastes better there. The interesting thing is they actually start to move to the South after each rain in winter but they normally return as soon as they find that the grass taste does not change too much :). It had been raining in the morning so we started the drive with elephants (we wanted to catch them before they left to the Southern part of the reserve). Elephants in Phinda are very different comparing to elephants in Kirkman’s. In Kirkman’s eles are very relaxed with people, they are curious about people and have no aggression, elephants in Phinda, especially cows are much more concerned with human presence, so guides have to keep very good distance between eles and cars. We found the breeding herd when they were moving through thick bushes so we just watched them little bit till they disappeared in thickets and continued the drive.

 

We were driving to the Nothern pride that was found in the morning, but we met one of lionesses on our way there. It was mother of 3 cubs. Devon told that one week before I arrived one of cubs was injured badly during the hunt. Nobody knew what exactly had happened but the male cub could barely walk. Unlike some lionesses that prefer to leave the injured cub behind, this one just started to hide her cubs again when the pride goes hunting and then she goes and picks them up. So we assumed that she probably was walking toward the place where she had hidden her cubs. Obviously we decided to join her. This lioness is definitely one of the largest lionesses I have seen:

 

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When she walked quite far away from the pride other lionesses probably woke up and started to call her. So she periodically stopped and listened:

 

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A few times she walked into very thick bushes where we could not follow her, but luckily, every time when we gave up and started to think to go back to pride she reappeared on the road. It was very kind of her :). At last, she left the road again and she became very attentive scanning bushes, and then she started to call. For five minutes or so there was no response, and she started to worry little bit (I started to worry too :( ). She was scanning bushes even harder and was calling louder and more actively:

 

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And suddenly two lion cubs ran out of the bush. They were extremely happy to see their mom. We had a few minutes of uncertainty on what happened to the injured cub but then he appeared too. He was limping pretty badly but Devon told that he actually was moving much better than he had used to. All cubs were thirsty/hungry so they were nursing very actively:

 

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And there was some time for grooming and playing:

 

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Mom is not only the source of food but she is a very convenient observation spot:

 

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Little bit of bonding:

 

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and unthankful kids are trying to strangle their mother :)

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Mom also did not stay passive :)

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A little bit of personal attention to the injured cub:

 

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And then the lioness actually started to chase cubs and “fight” with them actively but it was too dark for my camera :).

 

On our way back to the camp we met a leopard again. Three leopards in three nights was a very good result for Phinda :)

Edited by bettel
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SafariChick

Wow, this report continues to deliver! So many wonderful sightings! I love this last one with the mama and cubs. That is great that she wanted to keep caring for the very injured cub and he is getting better. I love seeing the maternal instinct play out in nature.

 

Oh and yes, the cheetah cubs are awfully cute!

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Great photography! wonderful stories. Great job!!!

Day 3. Morning.

 

The first thing we found was a male leopard track. The dominant male in the area is Xovonekela, friends can call him Xovo :). The only time I saw a male leopard before was in Botswana when the leopard was injured by lions and was sitting high on the tree and it was pretty dark. So I really wanted to see Xovo. While JP and Eckson were discussing the searching strategy, I was doing my part… I was sitting in the car and was begging the bush “Please! Please! Please! Show me Xovo!”. The bush was silent but I was hoping for the best.

 

At some point tracks turned into thick bush and Eckson suggested to check the river bank as Xovonekela liked to be there. And, oh miracle, we found him!

 

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So we joined Xovo in his territory patrolling. This was magical: grey early morning, light fog on the grass and huge leopard that was moving silently.

 

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JP asked me “Have you ever heard how a leopard roars?”. I could not even imagine that leopards roar so I was immediately on the hook. So I started to beg Xovonekela “Please, please, please!» (don't laugh, this tactics really works, knock on wood). He was very cooperative and roared couple times for us. It became even more magical: grey early morning, light fog on the grass, huge leopard that was moving silently and low deep roar that was almost floating in the air.

 

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“I bet, he is walking towards the swimming pool!” JP said. My imagination immediately drew the picture: you are swimming in the pool all relaxed (I know it was cold and early, but for imagination it did not matter :) ) and here is a leopard. I bet, it is unforgettable experience!

 

But Xovo stopped to drink from a small waterhole:

 

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It was beautiful, but a swimming pool would have been funnier. After drinking Xovo did not go through the lodge itself, he walked through the staff zone (I am not sure, we left him earlier). JP warned the lodge in advance by radio.

 

After Xovo we went to visit Scotia and her daughter (and Xovo’s daughter). When we arrived the cub was pretending that she was a squirrel and was jumping between branches:

 

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But it was not interesting enough and she started to stalk her mother. It was extremely funny because the cub was thinking that she was a master, but her mom was easily following daughter’s each step. Scotia was also in good mood and both leopards had a great play session:

 

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Small break to rest and to drink:

 

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And the second part, aerobatics:

 

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When leopards got tired and decided to sleep we went to lions. Lions caught an impala but the male lion got it all to himself, everybody else did not receive a single piece:

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And this photo was made after the drive, I had a visitor:

 

10308131_713289815403569_270575144576501

 

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Fantastic trip! Great photographs, just outstanding! I absolutely love those of the lions cubs, and the leopard cub playing with it's mother and leaping in the air. I never thought of leopards roaring, now I have another thing to add to my wish list. You certainly have had many wonderful wildlife experiences, and they are great to read about. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your trip with us.

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Kitsafari

@@bettel it's been such a rollercoaster ride! i was down in the dumps for the poor alpha male dog. it's such a dilemma, wanting to watch action but feeling so much for the victim too.

then you brought us way up to the peak with all your incredible sightings. wonderful pix of the all the cats, but my favourites are the cheetahs and the adorable cheetah "kittens".

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TonyQ

@@bettel

What a wonderful trip and a wonderful report

Very enjoyable writing and great pictures and a full range of emotions

From the beginning with the poor dog, to the more positive dog encounters

So many leopards - I love the acrobatics

And then so many cheetah - and the cubs do win a prize for cuteness!

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  • 2 weeks later...
bettel

@@SafariChick, @@Fitnwell, @@Terry, @@TonyQ

 

Thank you for reading :)

 

 



I see someone also caught the wild dog/lion chase from the Mala Mala side - on this weeks' Africa geographic blog.

 

 

 

It was a Mala Mala Ranger, he was on the other river side

 



it's been such a rollercoaster ride! i was down in the dumps for the poor alpha male dog. it's such a dilemma, wanting to watch action but feeling so much for the victim too.

then you brought us way up to the peak with all your incredible sightings. wonderful pix of the all the cats, but my favourites are the cheetahs and the adorable cheetah "kittens".

 

Yes, it was a very emotional trip. My favorite sighting was cheetah cubs :). I don't know how I managed not to steal one or two :)

 

 

Day 10. Morning.

 

We started the morning with a cheetah search (I think I can just copy-paste this sentence to all Phinda days). But cheetahs decided not to be cooperative. However, we found couple birds of prey instead.

 

Brown snake eagle:

 

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Bateleur eagle:

 

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And there was a cute road block :):

 

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After an hour or so we gave up and decided to go to lions (the majority of tourists wants to see lions so the Northern pride was found every day). But on our way there we received a radio call that a female cheetah was found and we changed the route. “Wow!” – Devon said – “Put on you sun glasses! Here is a Mozambique spitting cobra!”

 

I was little bit shocked on how hard it was to notice a cobra in the grass, the whole idea of walking safaris started to have much more colours :):

 

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Cobra was not in the mood to hide and started to move straight towards our vehicle:

 

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Devon started to knock on car to make the cobra to turn away (we did not want the snake to go under the car), but the cobra just moved faster and opened the hood. At this point I started to think that hanging out of the car might not be a bright idea and moved inside. The snake went under the car, Devon switched his position and moved from his driver seat higher as there was no door in the car. I don’t think somebody would want to have a cobra a few centimeters away from naked legs (at least I would not). It was pretty funny to be beset by a cobra. I started to stamp my feet to make sure that the snake did not think that our car was a great sun protection. A few minutes later cobra appeared on another side and moved into grass. And we continued driving towards a cheetah.

 

We met a giraffe family not far from the cheetah

 

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The cheetah was lying on a termite mound:

 

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We were thinking that it was a female cheetah with 4 small cubs so we were not surprised when she got up and went into tall grass:

 

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We escorted her to a palm bush where she probably hid cubs and then went to lions:

 

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Lions were sleeping and we used quiet time to have a breakfast. Devon told about a huge project that had been happening in Phinda for 10 years. It was all about leopards.

 

This was the deepest leopard research in the history. Scientists collared tens of different cats and checked their territories, their moves, overall leopard density and much more. E.g. one of the young male leopards covered more than 1500 kilometers in a 3 month period after he was separated from his mom. Devon joked that it was really great that his collar had an international cell phone coverage otherwise they would lose him.

 

In addition to pure research this project saved a lot of leopard lives. It used to be extremely easy to get a permission to kill a leopard. Any farmer could just come and say that he had a leopard on the property that was hunting cattle. Nobody was checking if it was true, nobody was controlling if the right leopard was killed, etc. Farmers were actually selling these permissions to hunters. The situation became so bad that the density of leopards in Kwazulu Natal dropped to only 5-7 cats per 100 square kilometers. Scientists intervened and started to investigate each of these requests. They were going to farms and they were teaching farmers what they (farmers) could do to protect their cattle, if it did not help, scientists would track an exact leopard that started to kill cattle and they would put down an exact animal, not just any leopard as it was before. At the moment the density of leopards grew to 20-22 cats per 100 square kilometers. It is actually the same density as in Sabi Sand.

Edited by bettel
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Marks

I just love the photo with the giraffe and cheetah.

That is a pretty fun cobra story, as well. I'm also surprised that we don't hear of more unpleasant on-foot encounters.

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  • 1 month later...

Sorry, I was trying to enjoy the short Canadian summer :).

 

Day 10. PM drive

 

All cheetahs preferred to hide so we went to lions. Lions were very cooperative: they were lying on фт old dam so they could be seen from far away.

 

This is the biggest ever weighted lioness in Africa. Her weight is about 220 kilograms but it does not make her slow. She is a VERY good hunter:

 

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And this is her sister:

 

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While we were sitting with lions we noticed that there were quite a few animals near the waterhole so we went there to check

 

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The rhino calf was extremely curios so he was willing to check us and his mom was following him just to make sure that we would not harm her baby. When she was 3 meters away from the vehicle I started to think that maybe I need to lie down between seats (just in case :) )

 

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We found lions on the same spot

 

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But from time to time they were getting up, stretching and …. lying back:

 

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And then Devon suggested to go and take a look at controllable burning. Normally they don’t allow tourists there but as I was the only person in the vehicle they made exclusion. It was quite an apocalyptic scene:

 

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There is nothing better to watch than somebody else working:

 

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Edited by bettel
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Bush dog

This is amazing, so many extraordinary sightings every day and very good pictures that doesn't need words to explain what they are showing : an excellent photographic reporting.

 

I did not go through all the words, I am more focused on images. So perhaps somebody already make the following remark???

I do not think that your raptors' picture is showing a martial eagle, but well an african hawk eagle, but this has to be confirmed by an expert birder.

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Very cool to see the "behind the scenes" controlled burn. As a tourist I'd love to see more of the "nuts & bolts" of operating a reserve than is typically possible.

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michael-ibk

Good to see you continue, you earned yourself your trip report "summer holiday". :)

 

Really extraordinary lion pictures!

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This is amazing, so many extraordinary sightings every day and very good pictures that doesn't need words to explain what they are showing : an excellent photographic reporting.

Thank you.

 

I did not go through all the words, I am more focused on images. So perhaps somebody already make the following remark???

I do not think that your raptors' picture is showing a martial eagle, but well an african hawk eagle, but this has to be confirmed by an expert birder.

No, nobody made a comment on this. But you might be right, I am a very bad birder :)

 

Very cool to see the "behind the scenes" controlled burn. As a tourist I'd love to see more of the "nuts & bolts" of operating a reserve than is typically possible.

Yes, it was a pretty special experience and very memorable especially when we were driving with fire on both sides of the road.

 

 

Good to see you continue, you earned yourself your trip report "summer holiday". :)

 

Really extraordinary lion pictures!

 

Thank you.

 

Day 11. AM

 

In the morning we were looking for cheetahs again. But we came across some lions tracks so Devon and Nsika left me in the car and went to check the track on foot. Unfortunately lions noticed them first and preferred to run away (guys could see this based on tracks). I was waiting for them together with a warthog :)

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After Nsika and Devon returned we went to check two cheetah brothers. They were resting deep in bushes and were watching 5 rhinos browsing around:

 

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As they were obviously going to have a long rest, we continued our drive and checked on the Southern pride. The pride had recently fed on something and was looking for a shady spot to have a nap

 

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When we were with lions we received a call that my favorite cheetah family was found so we quickly went there.

 

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It was VERY windy and cheetahs were quite nervous. The mother was constantly getting up and checking surroundings:

 

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There was a funny moment. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a lost adult gnu appeared, s/he galloped around the termite mound and disappeared, leaving all cheetahs extremely excited. A few minutes later s/he appeared again and the mother actually started to run after him :). All cubs jumped up trying to understand what was going on and what they should do. The mother returned pretty soon as she did not have any luck (I don’t think she had even the smallest chance, the gnu was way too big).

 

Family portraits:

 

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Closer to 1 pm it became pretty hot and cheetahs moved to the shade:

 

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On our way back we met some plain game:

 

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Even during the lunch we could watch animals and they could watch us:

 

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It was pretty crowded near the swimming pool :):

 

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Edited by bettel
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