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Cats in the Kgalagadi

 | Natalie White Book Accommodation 

Cheetah Profile

The Kgalagadi has a reputation for great cat sightings, not just for the big stuff like leopard, lion and cheetah, but also the smaller species such as African wildcat and caracal which are seldom seen in other parks. After a pretty uneventful first evening’s drive, we heard back at camp that cheetah had been seen by the Melkvlei picnic site for two days in a row so we immediately made a plan to head straight there early the next morning.


The fleeting glimpse of a caracal

We didn’t have to wait long for our first cat sighting as a few kilometers out of camp; a caracal darted across the road in front of us. This was a first for us! The closest we’d come to seeing a caracal before was on our camera trap in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.

Elated, we carried on and soon met with a Kgalagadi favourite – the African wildcat. We had briefly seen one the night before having an altercation with a black-backed jackal, however, we caught the tail end of their squabble and the wild cat had already ducked behind a bush.

Kgalagadi African wildcat walking

African wildcat out in the open though not keen to hang around for a photo! 

African wildcat hiding behind a bush

Hiding behind a bush...yep it really is an African wildcat not a rock...

Black-backed jackal

The black-backed jackal resting after it's African wildcat altercation

With two great cat sightings already under our belt, we dared not hope that we would see more. Nearing the picnic site, we were on high alert when we noticed four springbok all staring in the same direction – at a jackal which was heading straight for them! Surprised by their reaction to a lonely jackal, I checked through the binos and spotted a silhouette on the ridge of the sand dune – a cheetah! And it was looking straight at the springbok. Feeling sure it was going to try its luck, we watched with baited breath as it stalked down the dune. Within seconds the springbok bolted and the potential breakfast for the cheetah was over.

Cheetah on the dune 

Cheetah silhouette on the dune

Cheetah stalking

The stalking begins...

Cheetah walking

The relialisation that breakfast had got away...

Cheetah standing

The look of dismay to be returning empty handed...

Hearing the cheetah call, which sounds much like a bird chirping, we realized there must be others in the area. And sure enough, further along the dune sat four others!  A mother and her adolescent cubs, all looking very hungry. And one of them had just botched getting them breakfast! We stayed with them for over an hour as they made their way along the riverbed, stopping to rest under a shady tree every once in a while. Living up to its reputation for special cat sightings, we were riding high all the way back to camp.

Cheetah family

The cheetah family resting from the morning sun under the shade of a tree

Cheetah look out

Surveying the scene...checking there were no other breakfast options!


All photos taken using a Canon 7D Mark II with a Tamron SP150-600m f5/6.3 Di VC USD lens - thank you Tamron SA for lending it to us!