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Africa Geographic Travel

Every now and then, you get one of those days when everything works together – a day you will never forget. The morning of 2 October 2014  in Namibia’s Etosha was one of those days.

As a ritual, we would sit the evening before and do our planning for the following morning’s game drive. As we already spent a few days in the area we were able to spot some patterns in the local wildlife’s movements, so the planning was an exciting time of preparation. The previous day we noticed that all the herbivores headed down to the waterholes just after 10 o’clock, and that there were three female lions hanging around the Sueda – Salvadora – Charitsaub trilogy of waterholes to the south-west of Halali Camp in Etosha National Park. We witnessed the lions ambushing their prey from the grass surrounding Salvadora waterhole – and saw them fail at an attempted hunt.

The failed attempt at Salvadora the previous day. © Anton Renate-Kruger
The failed attempt at Salvadora the previous day. © Anton Renate-Kruger
© Anton Renate-Kruger
© Anton Renate-Kruger
Etosha
© Anton Renate-Kruger

In our planning, we knew that the three lionesses were hungry – so the centre of our planning process was to be at the trilogy of waterholes at 10h00.  That gave us about three hours of game drive before we got there.

As we are all suffering from leopardophilia, we decided to head for the woodland area towards the southeast en-route to Goas waterhole early morning.  Thereafter we would try our luck for leopard at Nuamses waterhole, after heading to the plains closer to the pan in the hope of stumbling across cheetah on our way to the 3 waterholes where we expected some lion action.

So, we are out of the gates as soon as they opened, the morning of 2 October 2014, full of expectation, heading through the woodland towards Goas waterhole.  After about 10 minutes we stumbled across two hyenas, but we decided to move on, we were anticipating a leopard after all!  After about five minutes we received a text from our friends in their vehicle; “Leopard!” We left the hyenas there and immediately rushed a few kilometres ahead to find a beautiful male leopard strolling through the woodland to our right. We followed him for about 10 minutes, whereafter he disappeared into the deeper bushes.

The leopard close to Goas. © Anton Renate-Kruger
The leopard near Goas. © Anton Renate-Kruger

We then moved on towards Nuamses waterhole a bit further south – where another awesome sighting awaited us.  There we found a mating pair of lions, “slap bang” in the middle of the parking area of the waterhole!  They were extremely relaxed until a breeding herd of elephants arrived for a drink at the waterhole… What a morning so far, it was only 8am and we had already seen a hyena, leopard, lions mating and a breeding herd of elephants disturbing the lions!

Nuamses mating couple. © Anton Renate-Kruger
Nuamses mating couple. © Anton Renate-Kruger
Watching the herd of elephants arriving at Nuamses waterhole. © Anton Renate-Kruger
Watching the herd of elephants arriving at Nuamses waterhole. © Anton Renate-Kruger
Elephants disturbing the lions at Nuamses. © Anton Renate-Kruger
Elephants disturbing the lions at Nuamses. © Anton Renate-Kruger

We decided to make a quick stop again at Halali to celebrate our sightings with ice cream – and make a quick restroom stop as we were anticipating a long wait at the waterholes between 10h00 and 13h00!

So, we were off again.
Arriving at Rietfontein, could you believe it – cheetah. It was relaxing next to the waterhole, had a drink after a few minutes and moved off.  It was the first and only cheetah of the trip, and what a beaut!

Etosha
Cheetah at Rietfontein waterhole. © Anton Renate-Kruger

We headed on towards the three spectacular waterholes to see if the lions were in town, but without getting too far we spotted a splendid female leopard relaxing in a small Mopane tree, right next to the road! Could today get any better?  As it was 9h30 in the morning, the temperatures started soaring, and the shade of the overlanding truck was just too inviting for the leopard – she jumped out of the tree and came to lie in the shade of the truck, about three meters away from us. The only way the tourists were able to get a view of her was by attaching a GoPro camera to a stick and filming the leopard in the shade behind the truck!  After a crowd started to form, we decided to move on…

Leopard close to Rietfontein. © Anton Renate-Kruger
Leopard close to Rietfontein. © Anton Renate-Kruger
Etosha
In the shade of the truck © Anton Renate-Kruger

A quick stop at Salvadora (where we saw the unsuccessful hunt the previous day) revealed no lions, so we knew they must be at Charitsaub/Sueda. We saw the plains game still grazing lazily quite a distance away, but knew they would come for a drink as the sun started to bake the earth. Arriving at Charitsaub, a quick scan through the grasses surrounding the waterhole revealed the same three lionesses as yesterday, starting their ambush yet again!  At about 10h20 the herd of wildebeest started moving in… and we knew…

The lions waited a while, until a whole bunch of wildebeest were in the middle of the waterhole, before striking with an immense rush of speed! Chaos!! Wildebeest running everywhere. Splashing water. The lions focussed on one target, and we thought this was it, as the lions were closing the gap on the wildebeest. When less than a meter away, the lioness went for the strike but she missed! When looking at the photos, you can see the lioness missed by a few centimetres, and you cannot believe that the wildebeest got away! Lucky for the wildebeest though.

Etosha
Peace at Charitsaub waterhole. © Anton Renate-Kruger
Etosha
No more peace at Charitsaub! © Anton Renate-Kruger
Etosha
She missed by a few centimetres, and the wildebeest got away. © Anton Renate-Kruger
Etosha
The embarrassed lionesses. © Anton Renate-Kruger

After the attack all the plains game decided to rather go and drink at Salvadora waterhole, leaving the embarrassed lions behind.

We had all these amazing sightings between 7h00 – 12h00, 5 hours of Etosha magic, at its best, and this on our 5th anniversary to top it all!

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Anton lives in Pretoria, South Africa, and works in his family's property development and investment business. He and his wife Renate both have a passion for wildlife, with a special interest in birds.

Africa Geographic Travel