Day 3: Nossob to Grootkolk.
We woke at 04:15, had a quick cereal and coffee, packed the car and headed for the gate by 05:15. Man were we tired after another restless night. The two graders were also ready to leave towards the north, so we knew that they would be ahead of us for most of the day. When we returned to camp the previous evening I was filled with dread when I saw the diesel thirsty graders, but fortunately there was enough diesel in the underground tanks to serve everyone. This is a good thing in terms of the road surface, but in terms of sightings, I have my doubts as I believe they must disturb the animals as they go by. The excitement of the day ahead however drove us on. We collected our permits from the friendly staff and set out second in line today.
I believe the distance to Grootkolk from Nossob is just over 100km, so we had plenty of time to get to Grootkolk. As check in is after 12:00 we couldn’t arrive to early either. We stopped at every waterhole to look and wait. At the Polentswa water hole we watched some BBJs playing in the early morning sun.
I was starting to wonder where all the animals were. On previous visits the question around animal density also crossed my mind. Driving for long distances and not seeing a single animal. I know this is a National Park which has been operation for many many years and that nature takes its course and balances the resources with the animal numbers, but it just seems like the Park could support many more animals. I would love to hear your views on this.
We did see a number of very young Wildebeest next to the road.
This group was enjoying a deep drink.
Another youngster was this juvenile PCG.
The landscape is really amazing as you would find parts where the old trees are still plentiful and look strong where in other spots you would find what looks like the aftermath of a nuclear attack with dead trees everywhere. Is this due to fire or lack of water in certain areas?
Another interesting this to us was the concentration in certain areas of termite mounds. Literally hundreds of them in one area.
Anyway. We had and uneventful drive to Kannagaus where we met 3 visitors from Argentina who had seen a pride of lions at the Kannagaus borehole the morning. We will come back and check in the afternoon. The wind was up and dust was everywhere.
We reached Grootkolk where we were met by a friendly Franco who showed us to our bungalpow We were given bungalow number 2 and promptly unpacked. What a wonderful setting. I can see why visitors to Grootkolk want to come back time and time again. We were told that there were 2 lions at the Unions End borehole, which was perfect as we wanted to go to get our obligatory Unions End pics taken anyway. So after we unpacked, we sorted the drinks and car out for the afternoon session. We couldn’t wait so in the heat of the day (13:00) we set off North to go and find our first Lions of the trip.
We stopped at the Unions End waterhole and searched for the sleeping lions. There they were…lying in the shade of a bush next to the water tank. Great.. 2 lions …no 3, a young male appeared and promptly moved into the deeper shade and lay down. This was going to be a long wait. I found a spot of shade under a tree, let the windows down a bit and switched of. We sat there for about an hour with the only thing happening, the lions moving around their bush/tree to stay in the shade. We decided to continue North and get our pics taken at Unions End and then come back.
My son found the thought of being on the border or 3 countries very interesting and knowing that Namibia was just on the other side of the fence really intriguing. Other questions like, “were do you think this road that runs along the fence ends”
“Can’t we just go down this road to see if there are more animals”
. More roads to travel on in the park would be fun I guess.
Well after the formalities we set off to our lions again. About 1km before we reached the water hole we saw a large herd of Wildebeest next to the road. The herd included quite a number of recently born. Aha…maybe we will see something after all.
Back to our spot under the tree, windows slightly open (and closed again when the dust storm blows by). Eventually what looked like a young female woke up and move to where we could se her. She was looking very keenly at a Secretary bird that was walking around.
The young lion then proceeded to stalk and then chase the bird over a small rise. Needless to say the bird escaped and the lion returned to its shading spot just slightly more hot and bothered. A second much larger lioness woke and joined the first under the tree. They both had there noses in the air in the direction of the Wildebeest herd. Good.
A while later the young male woke and also joined the females. He was going to be one good looking Kalahari male.
After he joined the females and they were sure he was now awake, the females left in the direction of the herd. The younger one sat down under a small tree about 40 meters from the male and the large female moved another 50 to 60 meters and found her own tree. This was very exciting and in between our sneezing and wheezing we watched these predators silently organise themselves. They stayed in these position for about 40 minutes and then got up and returned to the male lion under the tree. After a while the male got up and walked towards us and the water hole for a long drink.
The smaller female followed.
After the drink they lay down again. At this point it was nearly 5 hours since we arrived and we were faced with the option of staying with these 3 for the next hour before we needed to head back or go down to Kannagaus to hopefully find the pride of the morning.
Sometime during the afternoon a Stellenbosch vehicle had passed us and drove in the direction of Unions End. It hadn’t returned and we were worried something could have happened to the people so we drove back to Unions End to find out if they needed assistance. No sign of them, but then realised that there was a turn off to Gharagab, one of the other wilderness camps that they could have taken. O well!
After a short deliberation we headed south. We had just arrived at Kannagaus and positioned the car to make the best use of the light when an old male lion came walking up the road towards up.
He was an old warrior and even had a porcupine quill stuck in his chest. He drank for a long time and then headed off into the desert again.
We sat until we really had to leave to make it back in time. Shortly after arriving at camp we informed by our neighbour that the 3 lions at Unions End had in fact taken down a young Wildebeest close to the water hole. You can imagine our disappointment. Choices, choices, choices. At least we got to see the old warrior. Tonight was braai night so we built a fire and got it going. I wasn’t keen to be out here in the dark. I also filled a little plastic bowl with water and put it on the wooden fence post. My son asked me what the bowl was for and he looked at me in total disbelief when I answered that it was water for the resident Leopard. It took a few seconds to register. Good laughs all round.
Within minutes a number of sociable Weavers came to drink.
While standing there in the fading light talking about what was and could have been today, my son said “brown hyena” and ran into the tent to get the binos. It came strolling by hut number one and walked to the waterhole for a long drink. No pics as the light was too low by now.
We had a great meal in a beautiful setting and a cool breeze had picked up. We didn’t see anything further at the waterhole. We let down all the window flaps before we went to bed. I woke during the night a number of times to scan the water hole and drink something to relieve the itch in my throat.