Kalahari: Big Cats I

This is part of a series of photographs from our 2008 and 2009 trips to the Kalahari.  Click here to see a map of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

Tired cat! (©2009 WMB)

Lions are not my favourite of the Big Cats. Oh sure, the little ones are cute, and the females are quite sleek, but adult male lions have always seemed to me a bit ridiculous. A bit of a caricature – very big heads on what looks like much smaller bodies. And they are like grumpy old men with not a lot of patience.

Young male lions (©2009 WMB)

Young male lions (©2009 WMB)

But when you come across a lion in the wilderness, you realise very quickly why they are known as “The King of the Jungle”. They are truly impressive in their size and power. They stride about with such confidence. The confidence of knowing that there is very little out there that could cause them any harm.

Adult male at water hole (©2009 WMB)

Adult male leaving water hole (©2009 WMB)

You really don’t want to see a lion angry. In the Kgalagadi there are several warnings regarding the dangers of a confrontation with a lion, and the consequences. If you want to know what not to do check out “When NOT to run“.

The Bitterpan Kettle: The story that gets told about this is that a visitor to the Bitterpan camp taunted the lions near the camp. One lion stormed the "kitchen" area of the camp - and did some damage. The kettle serves as a reminder to all - if a lion can do this to a kettle, what could it do to your head? (Image source: Switchback/SANParks.org Forums)

Another warning posted on the notice board at the Nossob camp (©2009 WMB)

Unlike most of the other cats they really don’t have to rely on camouflage and hideaways to keep them safe, flopping down wherever it is most comfortable to them. On a cool, windy day they can be seen up on the high dunes sunning themselves. When it is very hot, they’ll be sleeping in the shade of a big thorn tree.

Adult male on dune (©2009 WMB)

However, even if they are such big animals, finding them in the Kalahari isn’t always as easy. They’re nocturnal,  and don’t move around a lot after the sun gets hot.  It’s fine if they settle down on the visible side of a dune, or under a roadside tree, but if they lie just a couple of hundred meters away from the road, it’s very difficult to spot them. Unless they move around.

Family group resting in shade of thorn tree (©2009 WMB)

During our 2009 visit to the Kalahari, we adopted a new strategy not only for planning our trip, but also our game viewing. We stayed in each camp for at least 2 days (so it didn’t mean packing up every day), and did short hops between neighbouring camps (to avoid driving long distances on travelling days).  We also got out at first light in the morning to go game viewing. The strategy paid off beautifully. Not only is the morning light not so harsh (if you want to take photographs), but most of the nocturnal animals are still moving around, before settling down somewhere for the day. The result is we saw a lot of lions, as well as other predators.

Family group at water hole (©2009 WMB)

Two females who seemed to be debating which way to go (©2009 WMB)

This is part of a series of photographs from our 2008 and 2009 trips to the Kalahari.  Click here to see a map of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.


About lisa@notesfromafrica

I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at http://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and https://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)
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6 Responses to Kalahari: Big Cats I

  1. M(i)zHitRun says:

    Hi there!

    These photos are really amazing, I want to reach out and pet those kitties (don’t worry, I know better). They are beautiful creatures! I hope you guys used a REALLY good lense with zoom and that you weren’t actually as close to the cats as it looks.

    I’m getting more jealous with every batch of photos you show us. Next time you go there, just squeeze me in one of your bags. It will be an EXTREMELY tight fit, but I won’t mind 😉 😛

  2. Mike says:

    Great shots of some beautiful animals. Sometimes I wish the area I live in (northwestern USA) wasn’t quite so tame – I think the biggest risk I had on my last photo trip was being pooped on by a seagull.

  3. These pics are fantastic….such detail…I haven’t been to Africa, its next on my list….cb

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