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Wednesday, July 11

Africat


Brett: In the morning we left via Outjo, which is a really nice town, and then on to Africat / Okonjima, another treat from 2by2 Holidays and the place where my folks had adopted a cheetah for a year for my birthday a few years earlier. It was a really superb place, with good food, an amazing view from our room and a hot indoor shower! We tried our best not to laugh when two Dutch guests jumped into the freezing swimming pool to escape the tame warthog wandering around the property.

Africat have rehabilitated 1000 cheetahs and leopards and reintroduced 900 of those back into the wild. They have an impressive 200 square km and growing. Our first activity was cheetah tracking on foot - these ones were here permanently and had radio collars, which the trackers could use to tell their direction and distance using a hand held receiver. We found the cheetahs sleeping next to the lake and because they were semi-tame were able to quietly creep up really close the them - about 3 meters away. At our sun-downer drive that evening, we stopped for drinks in a wide open plain. Suddenly, the tracker nervously told us to all get back in the game drive vehicle - about 5 minutes later, we could see two cheetah stalking up to us from the direction he had been looking - no idea how he saw the cheetah from so far away! The cheetah came to within about 15 meters of us to investigate.

Mary: After a lovely dinner, we spent an hour at the hide next to the waterhole in the freezing cold. We saw some nervous black-backed jackals that would come closer and then run away. There were also two cute little porcupines (first time we have ever seen them), only a meter or two away. They were eating next to the water and would rattle their bristles every time the jackals came near.

We did the 4x4 leopard tracking the next morning. We picked up a signal from a leopard quite high up on the hill, where we couldn't get to. The second leopard one took quite a while to find as it kept moving around. It was in some thick bushes a few hundred meters off the road, so our cowboy game ranger drove over some massive rocks and smallish trees to get us closer. It started getting more dense so he chopped down a few bigger trees to make a path. While we were still quite far from the leopard we got a puncture, which he changed quickly. We suddenly got a strong signal and changed direction - we were still ducking for thick branches when we started climbing over massive rocks - bigger than anything we had driven over. After a while, we got properly stuck, with all 4 wheels in the air and the land cruiser resting with rocks under a leaf spring, the petrol tank and the prop shaft. Just as our ranger was about to get out, the tracker spotted the leopards legs and tail moving in the bushes literally 5m ahead, and our tough, rugby player sized ranger suddenly got very nervous.The leopard was lying down behind a bush but we could see it's tail flicking every now and then. We were going nowhere and after a bit of revving and trying to get off the rocks he had achieved nothing besides polishing up the prop shaft that was spinning on the rocks. After a while the leopard still hadn't moved, so he got brave and climbed out of the car, shoving rocks under the wheels. We were keeping watch and every time the leopard moved we shouted and he would jump back on the vehicle. The rocks didn't work and our only option was to use a high lift jack. We couldn't get out of the vehicle with a leopard a few meters away, so the ranger started jacking with all of us in the back, standing up to try keep tabs on the twitching leopard. He also had to half scramble under the car to get out a few massive rocks that were in the way, which was incredibly dangerous (for him) with a handful of guests standing very still on the back trying to keep an eye on the leopard a few meters away. About half way through, the leopard moved again and the ranger leapt back into the car. Finally the jacking was done, and he managed to get a big rock under the wheel. Just then, the leopard got up (ranger jumped about a meter vertically and into the car) and she walked right beside us, staring at us with agitated eyes. Once she was gone, we eventually got unstuck, but got a second puncture on the way back. This time our intrepid ranger pushed an acacia thorn into the hole to stop the leaking air and we headed back to the camp. Just as we got there, the thorn came out and the tyre went completely flat with a wheeze. Our exhausted ranger just handed the keys to one of the other staff and headed straight for the bar. Overall, probably the most exciting game drive we have been on, and so much better having these adventures in someone else's vehicle!

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