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 Post subject: A & C's Kgalagadi Trip Report : 8 - 17 June 2006
Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2006 8:06 pm 
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Hi all

After spending our honeymoon in the hot Kgalagadi in Feb 2005 we decided to visit the park in the cool winter month of June.

In error we left our passports at home so we were forced to travel along the VERY badly corrugated 60km SA road before entering the park. :wall:

We arrived at the park after a long drive up from Cape Town at just before 5pm. :dance:

Twee Rivieren (08 June - 09 June):
After checking in we decided to go out on a quick drive before the gates closed. The friendly staff at reception advised us that lion had been seen a few km's from camp.

After all the rain the park received a few months ago, the grass was quite long but already very dry. We saw a few of the 'common' antelope on the drive out, including springbok, gemsbok, wildebeest and red hartebeest. Just as we reached our pre-decided time for turn around we came across the evening drive vehicle stopped on the side of the road. Lion:!: We could see two females, one on the left and
one on the right but could not stay or else we would have been locked out of camp! Lion within 20min of entering the park, not bad. :thumbs_up:

Nossob (09 June - 12 June):
We were in the car and ready for the drive to Nossob at just after gate opening time. The roads in the park were also badly corrugated but not nearly as bad as the road outside the park, however the drive still took us over 6 hours in my 10 day old Toyota RunX. It seems that when the roads are corrugated most people speed over the corrugations which makes them even bigger and deeper.

From Nossob there are two directions to drive: North or South. Our first few drives produced no cats, but lion and cheetah were often seen in the opposite direction to which we travelled. :doh: We often found 'fresh' spoor on the road but failed to find the culprits. This was in contrast to our previous visit in Feb 2005 where we saw lion on almost every drive from Nossob. There were however, large herds of springbok, gemsboks and wildebeest on Marie se Draai which kept us entertained.
Day 3 started off better with a short sighting of African Wild Cat between Cubitjie Quap and Kwang (our first good sighting of the cat). :dance: After having lunch in the shade overlooking Kwang waterhole and deciding that May would be a better time of year to visit the park, we decided to drive back to camp only to be flagged down a kilometre later by two friendly ladies in a Toyota Venture. They pointed out two Cheetah that were resting under a tree a hundred metres from the road. The two ladies could see that we were struggling to see over the grass and reversed to give us 'their' spot so that we could see. :thumbs_up: We sat and waited for some time hoping that they would move a little closer to the road but eventually left back to camp. Had our luck changed :?: That evening we took a drive to the same spot to find the cheetah were already gone, but we saw another african wild cat very close to Nossob. When we got back to camp we were informed that a female cheetah and her 4 cubs had captured an ostrich right next to the road, South of Nossob, at the start of Marie se Draai.

News of the cheetah sighting spread quickly from the previous evening and the next morning there were a few cars lined up at the gate. We were packed and ready to leave for Urikaruus and happened to be 3rd vehicle out of the gate of Nossob. Just before Marie se Draai a brown hyaena crossed the road with a large piece of ostrich bone in its mouth. The two ladies in the venture had stopped just in front of us, we went past them to get a better view and not even 50 metres from the road were the 5 cheetah. The 4 cubs played while the mother rested. The first car out had gone straight past without even seeing them - but returned a half an hour later. Soon after we stopped all the cheetah started stalking another brown hyaena that was homing in on what was left of the ostrich. The cheetah all came right up to the road, then once the hyaena was far enough away, they moved off to play on a dead tree. We then watched the mother stalk some some springbok but she was spotted when her cubs ran up behind her, thinking it was some sort of game. Our luck had changed. :dance:

Highlights of our sightings around Nossob included: springbok, gemsbok, wildebeest, red hartebeest, steenbok, many kori bustard's, lappetfaced vultures, the very cheeky ground squirrels at camp, black-backed jackals, 2 x brown hyaena, 2 x african wild cat, bat-eared fox families and 7 cheetah.

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A stunning gemsbok posing in the Nossob River bed

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A close up of a bat-eared fox taken on Marie de Draai

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The mother cheetah stalking a brown hyaena

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One of her cubs checking where the hyaena had moved off to

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Three of the cubs playing around

To be continued.....


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Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 22, 2006 8:11 pm 
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Part 2.....

Urikaruus (12 June - 14 June):
The drive to Urikaruus included another african wild cat, a few herds of gemsbok, red hartebees, springbok, and also a grader, grading the road from Twee Rivieren. :dance: We checked in at Urikaruus and were given a tour of our unit by the tourism assistant, Carlos. Our unit, no. 3, looked over the waterhole.
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I asked Carlos whether there had been any good sightings in the area recently but he was not aware of any. He then warned us against moving around after dark and told us about the various visitors to his bird bath on the ground, outside his unit, 20 odd metres away! For those that do not know, Urikaruus is one of the new unfenced wilderness camps. The camp consisted of only 4 units and is situated along the Auob River. The regular visitors to his bird bath include a pack a spotted hyaena and a family of leopard. According to Carlos, the leopards on average visit the bird bath every 3 days. In June Carlos' bird bath visitors included a female leopard with 2 young cubs, her litter of two males from a year or two ago and the father - not all at once, of course. He also described where he had often seen the leopards while doing his daily duties around the camp.

We later drove to Mata Mata to stock up on some supplies and again had some excelent sightings of the gemsbok, springbok and black-backed jackal as well as giraffe. When we arrived at Mata Mata we went to check the sightings board and noticed that lion were spotted at Dalkeith. The young lady at reception asked whether we had seen the 2 male lions that had been at the waterhole the entire day. We hadn’t and went back for another look. :hmz: We found them sleeping under a bush in long grass next to the waterhole (we only spotted them because there were 3 other cars stopped, otherwise we would have driven past again). :oops:

That night we were woken up in the early hours by what sounded like a stampede. Looking out our tent, by the light of the full moon, we saw a herd of wildebeest charging along the river valley. A few minutes later the reason for the panicked behaviour became clear. A large black maned lion, followed by a lioness, came to drink from the waterhole opposite our tent. They made their presence felt with some reverberating roaring, followed by the distant reply of roars from further up the valley. This dialogue continued until six am the following morning.


The day started off well (after the commotion in camp at night!) with a spotted hyaena 100 metres from camp. We drove to Mata Mata again hoping to see the lion again, but they had probably moved off by then into the dunes. On route to Mata-Mata, we saw 4 African Wild Cat!!! :big_eyes: A mother with two kittens in a tree a few kilometers from Urikaruus and another one closer to Kalahari Tented Camp.
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Unfortunately the auto focus focused on the branches, but you can still make out the mother and one of her kittens! Don't know how my SO spotted them in the dark tree.

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We saw this one close to Kalahari Tented Camps. Again she/he would not keep still and quickly disapeared into the grass.

On the way back from Mata Mata just before the 14th borehole (Veertiende Boorgat) loop we slowed down for two vehicles that were stopped on the side of the road. After a few seconds of looking in their direction, I saw her. :shock: A beautiful young leopard lying in the shade of a tree on a slope not even 10 metres from the car. We had the perfect view. She was facing our way looking straight at us. After a few minutes she got up and started to walk towards us only to freeze and duck down 3 metres from our car. I looked behind us and in the distance was a large herd of springbok. The leopard then leopard crawled between our vehicle and the vehicle in front and into the grass of the dry Auob River. After tracking her through the grass for over an hour and a half and seeing her get to within 15 metres of the herd of springbok, we believe she gave up. The springbok walked further away from her, into the open area where she could not follow without being seen and she disappeared into the grass which was not even knee height. This whole event took place at midday.

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Perfect view but not for photography (without a flash)

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Coming straight towards us!

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She spotted a herd of springboks in the distance and froze!

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Leopard Crawl!

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How low can she go?

In the evening we decided to try our luck around 14th borehole (Veertiende Boorgat) again and again got lucky. This time with a lioness which crossed the road in front of us while stalking gemsbok. Very soon she disappeared into the grass and we had to leave to get back to camp on time.
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Back at camp we told Carlos of our days fortune and he told us of some of his adventures around the camp, which included being stalked by leopard and lion!
:big_eyes:

To be continued... and it gets better!


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Unread postPosted: Sat Aug 05, 2006 10:15 pm 
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Part 3...

Kalahari Tented Camp (14 June - 16 June):
Our drive from Urikaruus to the Kalahari Tented Camp and the rest of the day was fairly quiet in comparison to the previous day. We did however, have some good sightings of bee-eaters, black-backed jackal, springbok, giraffe and gemsbok (including a very curious baby gemsbok) on and/or next to the road.

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The curious gemsbok

The nights and mornings at Kalahari Tented Camp and Urikaruus were very cold. When we left for our morning drive the next day I used the wipers and spray to clean some of the fine Kalahari dust off the wind screen. The window froze up instantly and we had to wait a few minutes with the heater on high for the ice to melt before we could continue on our drive. At 8am the temperature was -2 degrees celcius outside (and we were standing still) :!: The morning drive was also quite uneventful and we retired for a short afternoon nap.

In the afternoon we were driving our 'usual' route towards 14th Borehole and I noticed that the large herd of springbok from the morning had disappeared. I stopped and pointed out the disappearance of the springbok to my SO and said that I wanted to do the last kilometre again. With that I turned the car around and proceeded along the road just travelled. My SO thought I was crazy and proceeded to ask "What for?" :huh: I hadn't even driven 30 metres when a leopard (which turned out to be the same one from 2 days earlier) walked into the road and lay down in the sand. :big_eyes: I could not believe our luck! Always trust your instincts :wink: She must have been waiting for us to drive past.

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After about 40 minutes of rolling and playing in the sand, a springbok walked into the river bed and she immediately went into hunting mode :shock: She started to leopard crawl along the ridge of sand caused by grading, but then turned around and proceeded to crawl and hide under the back of our vehicle. The reason for this was soon made evident. 3 cars were approaching from the Twee Rivieren direction.

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I immediately flashed them to slow down and pointed to the back of our car. The person driving the front car slowed right down but was looking in the opposite direction despite my excited gesturing. As the cars got within a few metres of our vehicle, the leopard made a dash for some thickets in the river bed. The front car immediately stopped and the driver asked in a foreign accent whether it was a cheetah :?: I quickly told them it was a leopard. That seemed to make their day and they quickly pulled over for a better look. In the meantime the 'hunt' was off. The springbok had seen the leopard escaping from the cars and was staring and walking closer to the thicket. We sat and waited for another half an hour trying to spot her again. During this time a handful of cars passed by but because the leopard was in hiding, very few stayed long. There was one other car, a Ford Focus, with two guys inside that were also searching for the leopard. They were one of the first cars that joined us at the sighting. Eventually my SO spotted the leopard. She was resting under a small tree on bank on the other side of the river bed. You could just make her out with the naked eye but you could see her clearly with binoculars. We waved at the guys in the Focus and very soon they had seen her as well. Our time was running out as we had only a few minutes left before we had to leave for camp. As if on cue, but unfortunately a few minutes too late, the leopard started to walk down towards the river bed. Just as we started our engine to leave, the guys in the Focus pointed at a silhoutte on a dune on the left of us. It was a cheetah! We couldn't believe it. If we looked to our right we could see a leopard and to our left a cheetah, seemingly staring at each other.

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a crop of the above photo:
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We reluctantly made our way back to the camp to start our supper.

We arrived back at camp on cloud 9, still processing our days sightings. I started a braai on our deck overlooking the valley and noticed a spotted hyaena walking along the bottom of the dune. Very soon we had an SAN Park official at the gate warning us that a hyaena was in the area. We told him that we had just seen it and showed him the direction in which it was walking. Later that evening while braaing I heared a noise in the grass in front of me. I looked up and there was the hyaena not even 3 metres from me :big_eyes: I got the fright of my life and jumped up, waved my arms and shouted "VOETSEK" (local slang for: go away). Thankfully it had the desired effect on the hyaena which sped off into the darkness. Quite an eventful day :!:

One day left in the park ...... and what a day it was, to be continued


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Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 06, 2006 12:38 pm 
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Thanks all for the comments, we are really grateful and lucky to have the sightings we did. (I must add that we have practiced really hard to get lucky :wink: )

Salva wrote:
If you tell us now there are more spectatcular things to come I won't eat my shoes but do something spectaculare anyhow!


Hi Salva, our final day was just as good. We will post the final report and pics this week...

I left this photo out by mistake. It was one of our favourite shots. Unfortunately it's slightly out of focus.

Image


Regards

A&C


Last edited by A & C on Sat May 05, 2007 12:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Sat Aug 19, 2006 5:00 pm 
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The final installment...

Twee Rivieren (16 June - 17 June):

We were up at the crack of dawn ready for our last full day in the park. :cry: We were going to spend our last night at Twee Rivieren and then hit the road to Johannesburg as soon as the gates opened. We packed the car and were ready to start our drive at about 7:45. We decided to take the top roads and not the loops around the waterholes. As we neared 14th Borehole (the place of amazing fortune the day before), we slowed down to snail pace scanning both the ground and the trees just in case the leopard and cheetah had been successful the previous evening. The large herd of springbok that had "disappeared" were back. But something didn't seem right. There were a handful of male springbok "scouts" that seemed uneasy. :? Again I turned to my SO and said that I wanted to do the last kilometre again. This time she agreed without hesitation.

I turned around and drove slowly past the large springbok herd. Just as I passed the group of male scouts at the end of the herd, a head popped up in the shade of a tree 30 metres from the scouts. Cheetah :!: We turned onto the loop and parked parallel to the cat. We were amazed that the springboks could not see it. Every now and again it would lower its head then lift it again to see where the springboks had moved to. After about ten minutes, the tourists in the Prado (from the previous afternoon that asked me if the leopard was a cheetah), came driving past and I waved them down and pointed out the cheetah that was stalking the springbok. They quickly reversed and parked behind us. After about an hour there were about 3 vehicles parked around us. The tourists in the Prado could not wait any longer, pulled up next to us, thanked us and went on their way. The cheetah then started to edge forward towards the seemingly blind male scouts. :shock: One of the springbok in the main herd which was about a hundred metres away gave an alarm call. The entire herd stopped feeding and looked toward the cheetah. The scouts were very confused as they could not see the cheetah (25 metres away). A few of the main herd even started to walk towards the cheetah for a better look. I think they had realised that there was something unusual in the shadow of the tree but had not realised it was a cheetah. After about 20 minutes, the main herd started to go about their daily duties again. The scouts were still uneasy but also started feeding again.

Our 'friends' in the Ford Focus that had spotted the cheetah the previous evening came driving past, along the main road. They slowed down to have a look and I gestured to them to turn towards our parking spot, only 40 metres into the loop. I pointed out the cheetah and told them that the herd had spotted it. There were now 8 cars around our vehicle (the largest number of cars I had seen at any sighting in the Kgalagadi). I decided to move forward out of the potential traffic jam, in case the cheetah decided to give chase. I moved the car to the 'perfect' viewing spot: the cheetah, the handful of springbok scouts and my car all lined up.
Then all of a sudden, my prediction came true (kind of). :big_eyes: In a split second the cheetah stood up and bolted, but not towards me, towards the large herd of springbok over a hundred metres away. I quickly started my engine and pulled off in pursuit of the cheetah. As I turned onto the main road, a family that had also stopped and seen the cheetah takeoff, were trying to do a u-turn and were blocking the road. After a second or two there were 8 cars behind me all waving hands at the car to pull over to the side and let us pass. But instead the driver decided to reverse the car in pursuit of the cheetah at about 15km per hour. :huh: We all eventually caught up to the cheetah about 150 metres from where we started and about 40 metres from the road. There were still a few spingbok stragglers scattering and jumping in the air, but the rest of the herd were gone.........

The cheetah had seemingly given up and was standing on a small mound looking around.
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The Ford Focus pulled up next to us and told us that they had managed to get some excellent shots of the cheetah and the springbok fleeing. :mrgreen: They then went on to tell us that they had found 'our' leopard from the day before on the Twee Rivieren side of 13th Borehole and that she was also playing on the road next to their vehicle for a while. They said they had seen her an hour or so earlier. We decided that we had spent enough time with the cheetah and thought we would try our luck with the leopard. Enroute we disussed the likelihood that the leopard at 13th borehole was the same one we had seen twice previously around 14th borehole, but decided anything was possible. :hmz: As we approached 13th borehole my SO suggested that we take the main road and not the loop to get to the areas described by the guys in the Ford Focus, quicker. After a short friendly debate we took the loop instead. We passed the waterhole and neared the end of the loop when my SO shouted "LEOPARD :!: " She was walking along a small ridge next to the road but disappeared after a few minutes. We drove up and down but could not find her. We eventually decided to drive along the main road which was higher than the loop road to find her again. We quickly drove up the hill but soon lost sight of the loop road and turned around. On our way down the hill we spotted her still walking along the ridge. :dance: We quickly turned back onto the loop and drove to the area we had seen her. Nothing :!: :( We drove to the waterhole and were joined by the guys in the Ford Focus who told us that we should have stayed for 5 more minutes at the cheetah sighting. The mound that we had thought the cheetah was standing on, was actually a springbok that it had caught! :shock: They said that just after we left, the springbok jumped up and and tried to escape. The cheetah again chased the springbok and caught and killed it in full view of all the cars. He added that he had taken some excellent shots of the final chase. :mrgreen:

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a crop of the previous cheetah photo, reveals white underbelly of the springbok

We told them that we had found the leopard but that she had disappeared. They remarked on how lucky we seemed to be with the leopards and cheetahs. We decided to drive back to the main road again for another elevated look, as we got closer to the main road we spotted her sitting under a bush on the ridge.
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The Ford Focus was just behind us and we were again then joined by the tourists in the Prado. When the leopard realised she had been spotted she walked towards us and stood in the road for a few minutes.

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She then proceeded to climb into a tree and disappeared amongst the branches for a while.

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Luckily for us the tree couldn't have been too comfortable because after a few minutes she climbed down and started chasing something small in the grass.

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After a good look at her my SO and I both agreed that she was a different leopard. She looked older than the previous one and had different facial markings.

The leopard climbed onto a fallen tree still looking for the small animal it was chasing. It posed for the excited onlookers for a few minutes, then walked off into the bush and climbed into a large tree for a nap.

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This sighting lasted for over an hour. It was almost lunch time so we decided to continue on our drive to Twee Rivieren.

Along the way we came across large herds of springbok and my SO's favourite, the Meerkats (or Suricates). After spending a few minutes with the meerkats we carried on to Twee Rivieren. At reception we decided to treat ourselves to an evening drive and heard the good news that Jannie would be taking us out. :D That evening we dressed warmly and proceeded to the game viewing vehicle. We introduced ourselves to Jannie as forum members, briefly discussed our trip and showed off the forum tshirt I was wearing. Shortly after that we were on the way and after what seemed to be a fews minutes later (actually 3 hours) we were back at camp. :cry: The evening drive was superb. We learnt a lot from Jannie, including the directional movements of the animals indicating where the lions probably were that evening and the horny ostriches. He also cleared up a common misconception about the assumed difference in colour reflection of predator eyes vs herbivore eyes. Our special sightings on the evening drive included an African Wild Cat, a large porcupine and Cape and Bat-eared foxes.

All in all we had had another fantastic stay in the Kgalagadi, made all the more special by a few spectacular sightings and by our interactions with other visitors to the park. No doubt we will be back soon! :wink:

Regards

A&C


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Unread postPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2006 2:48 pm 
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Thanks again for your comments.

wildchild wrote:
incidentally, what camera do you use?

Hi Wildchild, we use 3 cameras/lens combinations, my SO uses a Canon EOS 300D with the Canon EF75-300 f4-5.6 III USM. I use a Canon EOS 33V with the Canon EF70-200mm f2.8L USM and also the Canon EOS 300V with a Sigma 50-500 f4-6.3 EX APO. However with the price of film and cost of developing, I'm contemplating going digital as well.

Toddelelfe wrote:
Two questions, which roads do you take to JoBurg, and how long do you drive?

Hi Toddelelfe, we drove along the national road (think it's the N14) from Upington to Johannesburg. It took us about 11 hours, however that included the slow going along the 60km stretch outside the park as well as fuel and lunch breaks. We also found the road between Upington and Johannesburg to have many large potholes which caused us to slow down in some areas. If I had choice between renting in Johannesburg and driving to the park or flying to Upington and renting a car, I would rather fly to Upington and rent from there. It seems such a waste of time sitting in a car the whole day and in my opinion the route between Johannesburg and Upington is not the most scenic.

Regards

A&C


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