If you stop for the small things, you’ll see some pretty amazing things.
5:30am… strolling out of bed for another general monitoring drive. Our female Cheetah was last seen on the southern side of the reserve (close to GVI base) so we would go and try and find her first.
The telemetry suggests that she is on the fence line. Driving along the fence line we finally find her lying relaxed about 10 meters into the block. We then stay for a good 15 minutes waiting and hoping that she would get up and walk, so that we could get a full rating (how full her stomach looks) to try and determine when she last ate. She does eventually get up and walks in front of the car and then goes back and lies on the floor in the block.
Next we want to look for the lions, that were seen the night before, a few km north of where we currently were. So as Hopkins (Staff Member) radios the other drives to say that we are going to leave and go for the lions, one of the game drives quickly replies and asks him if he can keep visual for a further 10mintutes until he gets there. Hopkins agrees so we stay with her for a bit longer.
10 minutes later we hear on the radio that the same game drive has a visual of the Lions, and they are walking south on the same road that we are on about 1 km away! As they get closer and into our vision we see the lions at the bottom of the hill now only around 500m away or so. The next bit of behavior from the Cheetah was one of my favourite moments on Karongwe. As she sees something in the distance she crouches down on the floor only popping her head up, hoping that the elevation from the hill will cover her out of sight. As the Lions keep walking up the fenceline showing their presence by roaring, she has seen and heard enough. At this point, staying in a crouching position she turns in the opposite direction and bolts at speed until we cannot not see her anymore. She is also extremely vigilant of the Lions more than her natural instinct forces her to be. This is because the lions killed her mother as well as her two brothers when she was still a cub. From this experience she takes no chances with being around them and it was an amazing moment to actually see this happen and if we didn’t stop for that bit longer, we wouldn’t of have seen such amazing behaviour.
About 2 hours later we were in the northern part of the reserve looking for whatever comes our way (but we always wish for Leopards!!). Hopkins then spots 4 Green Wood Hoopoes in a tree and decides to stop for them. As we are looking at these pretty birds Hopkins then spots an African Barred Owlet a few branches below the Hoopoes. At this moment we are buzzing as the owlets are quite rare to see. As we all get our cameras ready and start taking pictures of the Owlet, Tanda, one of our Male Sub-Adult Leopards, jumps out from nowhere and walks across the road infront of us! This all happened within a minute! We couldn’t decide what to take pictures of. Another great sighting! Moral of these sightings is, if you stop for the small things, you’ll see some pretty amazing things.
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