Etosha National Park is without a doubt one of the most spectacular places on earth. It’s not a very lush area or full of large trees, but it has loads of open space and beautiful grasslands with mopane forest… This is what makes it so great. On these dry plains there are numerous animals and birds to watch as well as large herds of zebra and springbok that roam the plains. We all know that wherever we find plains and animals, we will find the big cats.
I have been guiding for many years now, but one thing that has always eluded me is seeing a kill in the wild. That all changed on 12 September. I was travelling with a group of tourists on a Northern Experience (21 days from Cape town to Victoria Falls) and we were moving camp from Okaukeujo to Namutoni. This is a drive of about 150 km. So we took a slow game drive on our way through the park hoping to find some animals along the way.
We had already seen a big male lion, some elephant and loads of zebra and springbok. We then stopped at a waterhole where 3 juvenile male lions were sleeping in the grass… We had just gone along the road when we spotted two small heads in the distance. I thought for a moment they were lion cubs, but as we drove slowly by I saw they were spotted and way too big for cubs. They were 2 male cheetahs. They were lying crouched behind a slight rise. On the other side of the rise some springbok were slowly grazing, coming closer to the cats without knowing they were there. We did not expect for a moment that something would happen, but the springboks were slowly coming closer and the cheetah were starting to look agitated (lifting the hindquarters in anticipation). All of a sudden they took off and ran for the one springbok …
This gave us the perfect side view of the hunt. In less than 10 seconds and after only about 100 m he tripped and pulled the springbok down in a puff of dust. We could not believe what we had witnessed! It was so quick – we did not even have time to feel sorry for the springbok. The other cheetah had slowly run behind the hunter and now moved in and started dragging the kill away slowly. Cheetah are very vulnerable at this stage as any one of the other big cats or hyenas can steal its prey away quite easily. When they start feeding they will go for the richest part of the animal like the heart, kidneys, liver first and then the rump. This way if they get robbed, at least they’ve already got the best parts first. I have never seen this before and might never see it again, so I am thrilled that we were there at the right place at exactly the right time.
We ended our day with a female leopard under an acacia tree and two more male lions at a sunset-lit waterhole. All I can really say is spectacular! We dubbed it Super Wednesday and it will be a day to remember forever.