Africa – At the Water Holes

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving!
In Madikwe, South Africa, water is the key for survival of everything. The animals rely on “water holes”(especially during the dry season). These are pools of water (ponds, reservoir etc) where animals can drink (and elephants can bathe!) Some of the most interesting sightings of the trip were at the water holes, and conveniently there was one outside Nkurru Lodge, where we were staying. So you could pour yourself a beer or wine and sit on the patio and see what come by to drinKk
The water holes are not without danger … the prey are always looking around for predictors who might interrupt their drink!
Here are some pictures and videos taken of animals at the water holes.
I only have a couple more blog entries to post, but they are good ones ….. lots of lion activity and also a leopard!

Cheetah Brothers vs. Zebra

(Graphic pictures and video are below)
We are on a safari with Wild Eye. One of things I like about being on safari is seeing real things that are not staged or there for “my benefit”. Beautiful or gory, they are why I am here to witness….

We’ve run across a few cheetah over the last couple of days, and the first pictures below are of two brothers we saw the first day that always stay and hunt together. Here are a few selected facts about the cheetah:

  • Cheetahs are the fastest land animal, reaching speeds of 70 mph in short bursts. The average speed of a cheetah while hunting is about 40 mph,
  • The adult cheetah weighs 50-150 lbs, making it much smaller than the lion.
  • The cheetah coat is uniformly covered with nearly 2,000 solid black spots.
  • Cheetahs are active mainly during the day, which is when they hunt. Adult males are sociable despite their territoriality, forming groups called coalitions. Cheetah mainly prey upon antelopes and gazelles, stalking their prey to within 300-900 feet, then they charge towards it and kill it by tripping it during the chase and biting the throat to suffocate it to death.

We saw the two brothers on the 2nd day we were there …. they had just hunted and killed a zebra. The cheetah is a formidable hunter, especially when they can surprise a group of animals in closed quarters. We came onto the site about 20 minutes after the kill, so we could view the aftermath from about 20 feet away. Unlike previous cheetah kills we had seen, the brothers started eating very soon after the kill, meaning that they had not expended that much energy in the kill.

Interesting to not is that they first go after the vocal chords, so that they kill is done with as little sound as possible, in order not to alert other animals (hyena, etc) that would take the kill away.  Also, you will notice that they are fairly “neat eaters”, chewing only inside the hind-quarters as first, in order to keep the smell down (again, to prevent other predictors from being alert to the kill).

In the video, about 10 seconds in, the brothers change places, which

To see cheetah devouring a kill from so close is quite unique and very special. Below are pictures and video.

A Good Start to a Week in Madikwe, South Africa

We returned to Madikwe, South Africa, last week after 3 spots opened up a few months ago on the *always* sold-out week there. This time, we flew 8 hours Chicago to Zurich and had a 10 hour layover there. We showered and had a nice lunch at the lounge before taking the train into the city, seeing the sights (including awesome big chess pieces, as me about Beth’s idea for introduction into the USA), and going to a movie (Bohemian Rhapsody, ask me what I thought of the movie?). Late flight to Johannesburg (10 hours), 11 am arrival, then a 2 hour drive in a rental car on the wrong side of the road to Rustenburg for the night. Next morning, a 3 hour drive to Nkurru Lodge in Madikwe. We made it!

Each day, we go out for a game drive at about 5:00am, then come back by about 9:00am for breakfast. We relax in the lodge until another game drive at 4:00pm until about 7-7:30-ish. Dinner at 8:00pm, and nights are usually not late, as the next day has us up again by 4:30am. Game drives are early and late because that is when animals are active. Mornings are in the 60s and daytime can be in the 90s.

Every day brings a new and different look from the day before. The first day, instead of planes, trains and automobiles, we get elephants and cheetah and rhino. The second day, we get lions and giraffe and buffalo. Below is a quick look at some of our sights from the first two days here in Madikwe.

P.S.  Please make comments on the photos, so I get a feel for what people like to see (and to let me know someone is reading this!)