Exiting Etosha we drove quickly through Namibia’s capital Windhoek before crossing the border directly into the Kahalari Desert, and the trans-frontier park shared by both South Africa and Botswana. This park is known for two things: being in the middle of nowhere and being home to a lot of cats. We knew we’d see lions, (the ONLY animal other than wildebeest we’ve seen in every park) but we were looking for cheetah.
We quickly made camp and went out for a drive and found a dead lion. Eventually the animal moved so in fact, it was not dead, just nearly dead. It was skinny and alone. Other visitors told us that earlier it opened its mouth revealing an abscess, probably earned from a kick to the throat while making a kill. In their opinion (they do a lot of game-viewing) the lion could no longer eat and although not yet dead, it was close to dead.
The next morning we set off toward our next destination and within a few kilometers we came across the rest of our camp (who all drove faster than us because they were in proper 4×4 vehicles…over our three days we didn’t see another 2wd vehicle in the park) who were watching three male lions walk toward a water hole. Within 10 feet of our open window the began roaring at something in the distance. Although it didn’t sound anything like the lion (which is actually a mix of a lion, tiger, and bear) in the MGM intro seeing and hearing it so close was a bit unnerving. I would have made a video but I was a bit transfixed. After the lions walked away we learned that just around the corner were some cheetahs chasing a jackal but they’d since moved on…..dammit!
Then we got our reward. Driving along and trying to keep up with the convoy everyone eventually stopped, we couldn’t see anything but there off in the distance was a cheetah, barely visible to the naked eye. We parked the car and watched, along with the wildebeest herd nearby, to see if there was about to be a kill. The herd moved on and we moved to get a better vantage point…nothing happened. Finally a springbok wandered closer to the cheetah than it should have and the cheetah took off over the hill…so did we. By the time we zoomed around the hill we could see no sign of springbok but we did see the cheetahs (now part of a group of three) walking right toward the cars that had stayed put the entire time, to the waterhole right in front of those cars. We zoomed around again and parked along with everyone else and those cheetahs came right up to us. They were skittish, much more shy than the lion we’ve become very accustomed to, but they were beautiful.
Finally, back at our new camp, while I was cooking a nice late lunch, a king and queen took interest as well. This mating pair of lion had been so close to the camp’s viewing platform (actually under it) that we could hear them breathe. Now they just wanted a piece of my boerwurst. I know I’m good on the grill, but never thought I’d attract lions! Needless to say that night we fell asleep to the sound of the lions roaring outside our camp. It was a beautiful night in the Kalahari.