Thursday, July 09, 2009

I Want a Rhinoceros for Christmas...Throw in a Leopard While You're At It - Etosha National Park, Namibia.

The plains of Etosha were vast and at times appeared to be void of animals (large mammals in particular).

Our patience and persistence on the safari beat eventually paid off in finding the animals we wanted to see.

After a long, hot, dusty day of pounding Etosha gravel roads, me and Ahmed were driving back to Halali Camp. The sun was setting below the endless horizon, bathing the landscape of the expansive veld in golden light.

Ahmed brought the car to a screeching halt.

Three cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) lounged under a distant acacia tree to our left. Yes! Pay dirt! Our first cheetahs!

Pressed for time, we drove on.

Again, Ahmed stopped the vehicle in its tracks.

Three white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum simum) to the left!

Damn the Camp!! We rushed onward.

Driving around a big bend in the road, we saw what we thought was an injured animal lying on the edge of the vegetation. It was rather large for being roadkill. Ahmed slowed the car down. As we approached, the animal's head swung up.

The spotted mass was a sleepy leopard (Panthera pardus pardus)!

Holy crap! Bingo!

Pandemonium ensued, as we grabbed our cameras.
leopard namibia etosha
A little too much pandemonium in the car. Fast leopard, slow lens meant fuzzy leopard. Interesting abstract I guess.

In the span of 25 minutes we made three amazing observations...

My advice, don't stop looking. Never give up...

The cheetahs were really far from the road, but I managed to film the white rhinos and the leopard. Here's a taste of the chase:

Director's commentary:

00:12. Ahmed gets out of the car to observe the rhinos. Please do not try this at home unless you look both ways for large carnivores like cheetahs, lions, or leopards.

00:14. The darker rhino lets loose a violent power pee; easily mistaken for a jet plane taking off.

01:00. Ahmed tries to gain the attention of the leopard. By the way, using the psst...psst command is a legitimate photographic technique.

01:12. I think I was delirious from the heat in the car when I announced the distance to the cat was 700 metres. Clearly, it was about 30 metres. My bad.

Ed. note:

We missed the closing time of Halali Camp and were locked out.

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