South Africa Travel Diary - p 3

25 August 2006
We headed out for Mata-Mata camp this morning, and immediately came upon a knot of parked cars, which means someone has spotted something.   What have we got?  A fine leopard, surveying his kingdom from atop a bluff along the Nossob river.  Satisfied that all was well, he meandered down into the rocks for, what else, a nap.






Lilac-breasted-Roller (77517 bytes)Along the Mata-Mata road we found Lilac-breasted Roller, so called because of the aerial displays that it performs during courtship.  One of the most common and colorful birds around, the Lilac perches in trees and swoops down to the ground to nab insects, showing off bright ultramarine wings in the process.  It sometimes hangs around herds of springbok and gemsbok, looking for insects scared up as they walk along.  Every nature photographer who comes to Africa must get dozens of great shots of this most photogenic bird.






Cheetah (105754 bytes)


Another nice thing about Kgalagadi is the solitude.   Sometimes you can drive for half an hour without meeting another car.   But when a pair of cheetahs came out from riverbed vegetation late this afternoon, every car around converged on the spot.  About half a dozen watched the two felines as they stretched, washed their faces, and rolled in the grass.   Then, because Mata Mata camp closes its gate for the night promptly at 6:30 p.m., we all rushed back to camp in a cloud of dust, arriving with just moments to spare.










African Wildcat (87158 bytes)26 August 2006
I'm the nature photographer, but Charlotte's keen eyes always spot the game first.  This morning she saw this African wildcat near the road, greatly interested in a gerbil for breakfast.  After sharpening its claws on a dead log, it posed in the open for us, too close in fact for my 500mm tele lens, but Charlotte got a nice photo of it with her 100-400mm zoom lens.
   This is a wild animal, honest, but Charlotte and I agree that it is a dead ringer for my cat Tulip at home.  Charlotte even suggested that maybe Tulip has reverted to wild type, which would at least explain some of her antisocial behavior. 

   Later we read that SANParks   wants to maintain the genetic integrity of its Kgalagadi population of wildcats, so people living near the park are not allowed to have housecats, who might breed with their wild cousins.



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