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 Post subject: Markw's Trip to KTP : April 2006
Unread postPosted: Mon May 08, 2006 2:52 pm 
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Starting the promised trip report. Penni is a hard act to follow.

Days 1 & 2
Left Cape Town on 26 April just after 7am, and travelled via Brandvlei/Kenhardt to Upington. Lots of raptors on the tele poles - greater and rock kestrels, first PCG just north of Van Rynsdorp, jackal buzzards, black and pied crows, etc. But, sadly the tele poles seem to be disappearing and being replaced by mirco-wave links. Arrived in Upington at about 5pm, and spent overnight at a B&B on the banks of the Orange River. After an early breakfast, left just after 8am, on the final stretch to KTP.

Great road - lots of raptors, including pygmy falcons out in force, PCG, namaqua doves. But very sad to see all the bat-eared foxes and spotted eagle owls killed on the road. Huge social weavers nests hanging from virtually all the tele poles - thanks to whoever installed the wire supports. Occasional springbok in the veld.
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Had phoned the park, and was advised to use the botswana road. So after the turn-off, travelled the few short kms on the newly tarred stretch to molopo lodge (tried to get the tyres deflated, but the gauge did not work and there was nobody around) - only about 2 kms have been tarred in 18 months. At this rate the final 60kms will take 50 years to complete. Just past molopo, turn off to the gemsbok border post; RSA customs very efficient and friendly - passports stamped and continue to the botswana police station - again very quick and easy - just fill in the forms, the vehicle register book and get passports stamped. Then on the botswana road to 2 rivers. This road is in reasonably good condition and well maintained - very few short bad stretches. Spot lilac breasted roller and 2 black snake eagles soaring amongst others. Arrive in 2 rivers, fill in the usual forms (no fees charged) and travel on to 2 rivieren to check in just after 12pm. Relieved to hear that the nossob road had been re-opened this morning after being closed due to the rain.
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Offload at the family cottage, one of the older ones - 2 beds in the bedroom and 2 in the kitchen. Looking a bit old and worn, but these are still very comfortable and well equipped - the older cottages are busy being upgraded. Then onto the first game drive on the nossob road. The park is looking incredibly green, hard to imagine that this is dessert.
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The weather is great, about 25. As usual, we do not get as far as we had hoped - only made it to Kij Kij because we travel slowly and stop for everything (including doves). Really annoying are the large 4x4's often with trailers speeding through the park (please start speed trapping). The road on this stretch is fine, but with some detours around the muddy puddles.
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Highlights of the afternoon are a pair of lappet-faced vultures drinking from water lying on the road, and african wild cat twice close to the road near rooiputs (apparently a favourite area for them). One was wearing a radio collar.
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At Kij Kij, the swallow tailed bee-eaters are diving into the water, but why we cannot figure out. Also, the usual gemsbok, springbok, hartebeest, wildebeest. And the raptors - this is really raptor heaven - PCG, black-breasted snake eagle, jackal buzzard, juvenile martial eagle, tawny eagle (pale and dark), secretary bird.
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Back to camp for the sunset drive at 5:30. And Jannie is taking it - great to meet him after all his posts on the web. He is really full of interesting information with a infectious passion for the park. See giant eagle owls, bat-eared fox right next to the vehicle, spring hare, scrub hare, jackal, martial eagle, african wildcat amongst the usual. And then a stop on top of the dunes, overlooking the nossob river - great view and sunset, really peaceful and replenishes the soul - thanks Jannie.

Back at tr at 9:30pm, and to sleep for the next day. (More to follow).


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Unread postPosted: Tue May 09, 2006 4:15 pm 
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(continuing)
Day 3
We get up at 6:00 to try to get to the gate when it opens at 7:00, and catch the sunrise from tr.
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But by the time we get the kids fed and the car packed we only get going at 7:40, on the way to mata mata for our next night. We decide to travel along the aoub, but must first cross the short 10km dune stretch. The mata mata road is heavily corrugated all the way to the second main road across dunes - due to all the cars having to travel to nossob via the auob river bed when the nossob road was closed, which makes driving tiring.

The cross dune stretch is very quiet - some merico flycatchers (thanks penni), red headed finch, lone jackal. Arrive in the auob river bed which again is looking very lush, almost like kruger. There is lots of game - gemsbok, wildebeest, springbok, jackal, but very many fewer hartebeest than the nossob river.
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The first unusual sight is a black-headed heron on a water reservoir.
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Then a pygmy falcon all fluffed up in the morning cold, the first of many meerkat (suricate) in the auob river bed - never seen any in the nossob, a jackal buzzard preening in the sun and many beautiful swallow tailed bee-eaters and other birds.
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There are many raptors in the sky, but only a tawny gets close enough for a picture.
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Stopped at agterloonie for a morning break.
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Then on to the kamqua picnic spot for lunch. At delkeith find a lone giraffe drinking with legs widespread and see a pair of martial eagles mating in the distance - took us a while to figure out what was going on.
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Then a short while later a beautiful pair of giant eagle owls sleeping in a tree next to the road.
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Shortly before mata mata a pair of secretary birds (nice to see so many of them after hearing of their plight at the spier raptor rescue centre).
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Arrive at mata mata at about 3:15 and check in. The guy at reception is great - knowledgeable, informative and helpful. We have the 6-bed family cottage. Really well renovated - the kids love it, each have their own room.
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Explore mata mata, and see the resident ground squirrels (which my daughter loves and takes snaps of them all) and crimson breasted shrikes, and a shaft tailed whyder.
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The guy at reception tips us off to the white faced owls (never seen these before) in the tree outside the shop selling the basics.
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Then out for a late short drive - see more of the usual, the auob river bed is really teeming with game. Also a glorious sunset. Back to camp for a braai.
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That night we visit the hide which is on stilts overlooking the waterhole just outside the fence - one giant eagle owl in the tree right outside, one on the ground and a baby calling from the trees. Jackal, springbok and steenbok visit, but the hide is a bit noisy because it is right next to the campsite. We love mata mata, but only managed to book one night and will have to (gladly) return.


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Unread postPosted: Wed May 10, 2006 11:17 am 
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Joined: Tue Jan 25, 2005 1:57 pm
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The next post will take some time, I need to sort out pictures -please be patient.
Some replies:
Hi DuQues
We are strictly point and shoot at the moment - we have a panasonic fz5 with a 12x (432mm equivalent i think) fixed zoom lens. The thing to realise is the huge number of raptors in the park, as you can see from penni's pics. Then in the river beds the bush is not that thick, and distances not that far from the road for the most. Some of the birds are very camera friendly and pose in trees right next to the road so you can get reasonably close with the car, but others scare off easily. The white faced owls and shrikes were in trees at mata mata so we could walk closer, but the rest were in trees close to the road, and were not shy or even interested in us.

Hi Bush Baptist
It would have been great if you had come with. I have been reading your report on the richtersveld - sounds like a great experience. The botswana road is essentially parallel to the rsa road, but in much better condition. It costs nothing - just check through the various border posts. You need valid passpoorts. When you get to the KTP at 2 rivers, just check back through the border, travel through a very short stretch of the park (100m) to twee rivieren, and check in there - you can use your wild card at twee revieren for conservation fees. So free of charge.


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Unread postPosted: Thu May 11, 2006 11:23 am 
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Day 4 (Sat 29 April)

We are the first to leave Mata Mata. The guy at the gate gives us a letter for the shop at TR. Is it romance in the air (most of the assistants at the TR shop are women) or something mundane like the order for the mata mata shop? Apart from the usual, first up are gemsbok licking the rocks around the waterhole, known as geophagy apparently, and shaft tailed whyder.
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Near craig lockhart we come across some stopped cars - tawny eagle, giraffe and brown snake eagle from the same spot. A little further on a dove turns into a gabhar goshawk, and then we find another giraffe at dalkeith again.
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Then great excitement, we see about 4 cars stopped ahead - you very seldom see a group of stopped cars in the ktp even when the park is full. Most sightings we have had to ourselves, so we think something big. Peering round, we can’t see anything and so ask (Alise thanks). Someone has seen 3 cheetah moving along the top of the dunes on our right. (Note that there are not many clear photos of this - in the excitement cameras and videos were forgotten, and only my 12 year old son kept taking photos with his 3.5x zoom - not sure how well these will show on the web)? Again we search, but nothing. Slowly we move forward, and see the three cheetah half hidden in the distance, on the crest of the dunes. We sit and watch for a while, and are trying to decide whether to move on when one starts stalking down the dunes towards the cars, and then into the grass at the bottom of the dune. On our left a herd of springbok were resting and grazing down on the river bed. She or he would stalk towards them reasonably erect but with head fixed gazing at the springbok, then drop down and disappear into the grass and while crouched down move sideways, and then pop up in a completely different place. The cheetah crossed the road behind our car - my son got the snap and then continued stalking on the other side, using the shadow from a small tree for cover. At one stage he/she seemed to turn and call off the hunt, but then carried on. The final crouch, then the dash. She/he chased and caught a baby springbok, knocking it to the ground. I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye and the other 2 cheetah were standing just outside my car window. One ran in front of our car and the other passed the second car in front of us, both running towards the first cheetah. By now the baby springbok had got up and was running again, with the first cheetah after it, who caught it again and this repeated a couple of times. The second cheetah got close then realised that the springbok were standing around watching and not running off, and so he/she veered off and caught its own baby springbok. The third cheetah joined the first and they caught the baby finally. The other springbok amazingly were still just standing around watching, and even moved closer then ran off. The single cheetah dragged its prey into the shade, but the other two started eating in the open. We watched for a while, and then continued on. The whole thing lasted about an hour. I still have to look at the video and see if we can capture any good stills from what we have, and will post if so.
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The first cheetah after the baby springbok
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The second cheetah starts its charge - the first vaguely in the background
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The second realises springbok not moving and free lunch is available - veers off to catch a snack
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Third cheetah arrives - look at the springbok just standing around (if you can see this - sorry)
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And moving the 2 prey - single on the left (believe me) and the two on the right
In great excitement we continued on, not really noticing anything around us. Just after Urikaruus again cars are stopped, a major ktp traffic jam - about 10 cars all over the place. Edging nearer we see a leopard in a tree near the road with a springbok. After manoeuvring into a better spot, we sit and watch. He (?) continually licks his prey, tries to take bites and also drags it around in the tree to get more comfortable. After about 15 minutes, he slips down the tree and vanishes in seconds in knee high grass. Astonishingly 2 people got out of their cars to walk closer and get a better look, about 20m from the tree! Because of all the cars we could not get a clear picture of their car for the hall of shame.
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We stopped at kamqua for lunch and met up with Alise - an american who had been working in malawi and was travelling around ktp on her own. We bumped into her a number of times over the next 2 days. After lunch, we had a quiet afternoon - agama ? (can anyone id) alongside the road.
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Then across the short dune road (but where were the dunes under the grass) to the nossob river - steenbok in pairs and singly, ostrich, lots of koris, whistling rats, mice and psg’s.
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Then back to tr. Only a juvenile bateleur, secretary bird and gemsbok passing and another jackal buzzard of any note.
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In the cottage a bat, which wakes us up in the middle of the night flying around squeaking (and pooping).
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Unread postPosted: Fri May 12, 2006 11:53 am 
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Day 5
Our last day in the park. Leave tr just after 7:00am and travel the nossob road. We heard at reception last night that lion had been seen on this road the day before. In the KTP if you hear of lions, it is worthwhile going to see - they do not move around that much. Namaqua dove is first up.
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And then we spot Alise’s bakkie stopped ahead. She has followed lion spoor in the road and found a lion pride. On a small ridge next to the road are 5 cubs and 2 females, and lying down in front of the ridge are 2 beautiful black maned males. We stop and watch. The 2 males get up and walk up onto the ridge. The cubs are as amazed as us (we have seldom seen kalahari lions walking around - they are normally fast asleep) - and watch from the ridge.
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After watching for a while we drive on, and about 10km further on we find cars stopped at a lioness next to the road - she seems to be very pregnant. A jackal hovers close by - Jannie told us that the jackal follow the springbok to eat the afterbirth, is it the same here, or are the remains of a kill nearby? Her face is very bloody ans she cleans herself with massive paws.
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Moving on we spot a little banded goshawk, the usual PCGs (adult and juvenile), martial eagles. Then we stop at melkvlei for lunch, park the car get out and see lion spoor all over the picnic site, even over the car tracks and no-one else is there. We look around very carefully before relaxing (with one open eye).
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The white browed sparrow weavers, mice, ground squirrel, glossy starlings all crowd around. Alise pulls up - she had also seen the lion spoor and had driven the short loop to see if she could see them, but no luck. We have lunch together and drive up to gunong, but only see raptors (only?). Then head back to tr.
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A black-breasted snake eagle soars and swoops on another perched one forcing it into the air and away. The pregnant lioness is still there but the family has moved on.
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Then a juvie black-breasted snake eagle taking off. Some more tawnies and martials - you see so many eventually you get blase about them.
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A gemsbok with a wickedly crooked horn - apparently they get damaged when young.
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At TR we pop across to 2 rivers to make sure they open at 7:00 am so we can leave early, and see a family of mongooses just outside the office.
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After a rest, we decide to take a last drive over the short dune stretch to the auob, because my son wants to see some korhaans. But only some kb’s and jackals. We arrive at the aub, and about 500m on see 2 cars stopped. Approaching slowly, we see another leopard in a tree, this one with a jackal - do they eat jackal often? Never knew this. A really clear sighting, no covering branches. We sit and watch. It only stays about 5 minutes, but what a 5 minutes, then slinks down into the grass and away.
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We drive a bit further and find a giant eagle owl in a tree near the road and then more gemsbok, wildebeest, and a pair of jackals posing at the side of the road.
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Another pale tawny and a lanner falcon dive bombing a jackal buzzard and chasing off, and then its time to head back to camp. And in the dunes we find the khorhaans we were looking for, both the african black and black bellied korhaan (now bustard). To bid us farewell a last glorious sunset.
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The next morning we are up early and get to 2 rivers just after 7, but it is deserted. We knock on doors and eventually find some-one to wake up and get checked through the border, and travel the botswana road back to molopo, and then on to cape town via brandvlei, a 12 hour trip.

And so our trip came to an end. In 3 ½ days we have been incredibly lucky and seen some fantastic sights - I think Jannie had secretly lined everything up for us. This was our 3rd visit to the ktp., the last 2 in previous julys. Every trip is better than the last, and we have grown to love this park. Be prepared for bad roads - these were a shock on our first visit, but we have got used to them. The bad roads move around the park depending on where and when the last grading was done. July is very cold at night (freezing, especially in the wilderness camps), but during this trip the temperature was very pleasant both day and night. Favourite main camps are nossob and now mata mata, and bush camp urikuruus. We did pop into kalahari tented camp and will try to stay there next - looks good. At TR the reception desk staff are very friendly and helpful, but not very knowledgeable about the animals and birds (recommended we take a broom and kill the bat in our cottage) - how about an information officer at reception at TR? At the other camps the staff have always been fantastic and very knowledgeable about the latest information on the surrounding areas - keep it up. The park is a photographers dream - clear sightings and piles of animals, raptors and other birds, and great vistas. We half hope that the last 60 km stretch never gets tarred so that the park does not get flooded with people. The only big complaint is the speeding in the park. A number of times we have just missed being wiped out by some vehicle tearing round the bend nearly out of control on the wrong side of the road. Perhaps sanparks should look at ensuring that people do not spend the first and final night too far from the gate, and also do some speed trapping.

So thanks sanparks, and keep up the good work, it is much appreciated.


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