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 Post subject: Peterbee in the KTP (May 2007)
Unread postPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2007 2:40 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Location: Fish Hoek, Cape Town
INTRO

This was my 9th trip to the Kalahari, since 1994, and on this occasion, I had only my mother along for company. It is always preferable to have two game “spotters”, as the driver has to concentrate on the roads and keep an eye out for road-jumping gemsbok, but, as you will see, we coped very well !

Each visit I have stayed longer and longer, and this would be the longest visit at 17 days. Of course, when it came time to leave, I once more wished I had booked for longer.

We did the long haul up from Cape Town, and spent the first night at TR.


DAY 1

Repack the car (a 1998 Toyota Prado) for the journey to Nossob, and we are out the gate at opening time, 7am. As we enter the game area, on a bright, mild autumn morning, I have the familiar sense of being ‘back home’, and despite all the dangerous animals, feel safer here than out there in the ‘real’ world.

We join the other cars on the leopard hunt, a few km’s north of TR. Everybody peers up intently at the calcrete ridges, looking for mum and her cub, but no luck for us and we move on.

Soon after Samevlooing, our first sighting – and they’re lions ! A mother and 3 young, playing in the morning sun close to the road.

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After a while, they head off into the dunes. From a passing car, another leopard report, so we do a fast u-turn and head back towards TR, but again, lots of cars but no sign of the elusive leopard and cub.

So we finally head north. Along the way we see a large herd of springbok, an african wild cat, jackals, a caracal, and a herd of 30 gemsbok at Melkvlei waterhole.

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This weaver joined us for coffee at Dikbaardskolk.

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At Cheleka, a brown hyena is just leaving the waterhole. Now it was getting warm and the sun is harsh. The road is in atrocious condition. Spot an African eagle owl in a tree.

Reach Nossob at 2pm, unpack and move into the guesthouse on the hill overlooking camp.

At 4pm, head out to Cubitje Quap for sunset drinks. The waterhole is eerily quiet, not even any birds at first. No antelope to be seen. Then a jackal.

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Back to camp for a braai - what a great first day


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Unread postPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2007 3:49 pm 
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Location: Fish Hoek, Cape Town
DAY 2

Awake at 3am as a lion’s unmistakable roar echoes over Nossob camp, loud heaving grunts in the still, cool night, accompanied by the shrill yelp of the jackal.

The usual morning routine (prepare the coffee flask, breakfast and snacks for the car), and down to the gate to be on our way at 7am.

We come across a vehicle stopped at the side of the road just before Kwang, and they point out a cheetah. There are two of them, on the opposite side of the riverbed. We watch them and track them for a while, they eventually come closer and they cross the road in front of the car and disappear into the bush.

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On the way to Kwang, we pass a few smallish herds of springboks and gemsbok. At Kwang, about 10 gemsbok are drinking. Gradually, a steady stream of springbok emerges from the north, slowly, each group having a brief drink. This procession takes about 2 hours, and a herd of wildebeest also arrives.

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Soon the entire riverbed north and south is littered with about 500 springbok, and a few dozen gemsbok and wildbeest – it’s the biggest concentration of antelope I have ever seen in the Kalahari. Its fascinating to watch the parade of animals.

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The Springbok, drink, browse and chase one-another, occasionally pronking.

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Jackals join in the show, entering and exiting regularly from all directions. There is lots of green grass here and north of Kwang, which has obviously attracted all the game. We head back to camp for lunch, and return to Kwang at 3pm. There is still plenty of activity at the waterhole. We enjoy the show and have our drinks and snacks, in the shade of the trees. Suddenly masses of springbok are shooting north at full speed up the riverbed.

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Eventually, in the far distance, we spot the cause of all the commotion - a large caracal walking up the opposite side of the riverbed, too far for a pic.

Before we know it, its time to cover the 23km’s back to Nossob before 6pm gate closing.


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Unread postPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2007 8:29 pm 
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Location: Fish Hoek, Cape Town
DAY 3 - at Nossob (Part 1)

Get up early at 5am, so that I can sit outside with my coffee in the utter stillness and peace of the Kalahari pre-dawn hours - even the camp jackals are sleeping and the soft chug chug of the generator only starts later. Magic. Its still warm enough for shorts and a pullover.

We’re at the gate with enough time to spare to chat to the other guests – in these 20 minutes or so we swap all the sightings of yesterday and ponder the difficult choice, head north or south? Howard from Brakpan is here for a month :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: , and is heading direct to Kannaguass to pick up on a leopard in a tree he spotted yesterday – how’s that for hardcore-Kalahari :shock: A round trip of 200km’s, and we learnt later that the leopard didn’t feature, but that he enjoyed a good 2 hour snooze in his car in the shade of the tree-with-no-leopard. :wink:

At Cubitje, a lone gemsbok enjoying a quiet drink, his side reflecting the ripples on the water.

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We pass the large herds of springbok south of Kwang, but at Bedinkt the excitement starts - lion tracks everywhere :shock: , we follow them north for 2km’s, then they disappear :cry: . I had the good sense (ie luck) to turn around and retrace, and there they were on the roadside, 6 lions in all, about 1.5km from Bedinkt, and only 2 metres from the car. :cam:

First the senior female – you can tell she’s been up and down the Nossob many a time, and them some…those ears :shock:

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Then there is mom
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The two females together
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Cubs #1 & 2, and adolescent male
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Cub #1
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Adolescent male
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Mom and cub #2
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Adolescent and cub #3
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Cub #3
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They were unfazed by all the clicking and whirring cameras, or the diesel engines of the other 3 cars at the scene. After 25 minutes, they had all crossed the road and disappeared into the bush. Where were the pride males ?…they would introduce themselves later… 8)

After this intense excitement, we head back to Bedinkt and have coffee & breakfast at the waterhole, joined by a single wildebeest. Then its back to Kwang to check out the morning parade – here there are a dozen gemsbok, a few springboks and a wildebeest. A couple of jackals come and go. It’s a lovely mild morning, and utterly peaceful and quiet, I read a bit and feel a snooze building. Spot an eagle, one of the very few birds of prey so far on this trip. Snooze. :thumbs_up:

At noon, head back to camp to check out the photos on the laptop computer :dance: . Take a walk around camp and to the hide.

One Nossob disappointment – no raucous dusk clapping of the barking geckos (too cold?). So I collect some pebbles, and I’m soon able to imitate their distinctive sound (two small stones clapping together in rapid succession - in Afrikaans, they are called ‘kilpklappertjie’). Make a mental note to try this at dusk – maybe I can hoodwink them into putting on a “special” out-of-season performance…

Head off to Marie se Gat at 4pm, and spot 4 bat-eared foxes quite close to the road in dense bush, they scuttle this way and that, but as I open my window, they spook and scatter in every direction. I am happy, I have only seem these delightful creatures once before.

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Back in camp at 530pm for a lamb chop braai and red wine – what a fantastic sunset and another balmy, calm evening. Try as I could, the barking geckos ignored me. I’m asleep by 8pm, dreaming of……..yip, lions. :tongue:


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Unread postPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2007 9:28 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Joined: Thu May 18, 2006 8:31 am
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Location: Fish Hoek, Cape Town
DAY 3 - at Nossob (Part 2)

Part 2 consists of a quiz, and will test your lion identification abilities. :huh:

These are photos of the same lion, taken 6 months apart.

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What particular feature identifies them as the same lion? :doh: (you will need to zoom in...)

The prize :
you get to proceed to Day 3 of “Peterbee in the KTP”,
AND I will email you an original of the image of your choice…. :P

First correct post wins. Peterbee’s decision is final. :rtfm:




(I new you would be watching closely, anne-marie. But I am still :mrgreen: x1000 about your aardwolf and badger, ils m'ont echappes une fois de plus :evil: )


Last edited by peterbee on Thu Jul 12, 2007 11:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2007 10:42 pm 
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Well done Anne-marie :clap:


I had seen the same-sized pride at Bedinkt last September.

Back then, this chap was a pushy little youngster, strutting around the waterhole on his over-large paws (like human teenagers, cubs grow awkwardly and unevenly), chasing the doves, digging holes, kicking pieces of wood around, and inspecting each car with aggressive indifference. The cubs, of course, were also tiny then, and mom hid them from my camera :(

When I saw these guys in May, I could not really be sure that they were the same pride, especially as there were no males in sight. They also look like completely different lions.

It was only when I got home and carefully studied these pictures, side by side, that I could be sure.

It’s all in the whiskers…two growing out of one follicle


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It somehow means a lot to rediscover a lion 6 months later, and see how they have grown (ie dents, tears, scratches, bite marks). I think michele nel’s idea to identify the KTP lions with agreed names, maybe a separate thread with pictures, for Auob and Nossob, is a really good one. Although, if there are 500 lions in the KTP, this might prove quite a task?

I wonder if this chap will be waiting for me in April 2008 :wink:


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Unread postPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2007 4:35 pm 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Location: Fish Hoek, Cape Town
DAY 3 - at Nossob

The day begins with the earlybird group meeting at 6.45 at reception – the consensus is to try and catch up with the Bedinkt lions and see what they have been up to overnight. So a convoy of four vehicles heads 60km north in the semi-dark of another still Kalahari dawn.

About 2km north of Bedinkt we pick up fresh lion tracks. 8) At this stage, the heart starts beating faster, and you tend to hold your breath going around each bend, in case they are all there, sprawled around a kill. :shock:

Howard the leopard-chaser (see Day 1) has stopped ahead of us, and his bazooka-sized camera lens is already pointing into the dry riverbed.

At first in the semi-light, the rising sun reveals only dozens of jackals. Then in the shade of a thorn tree, the solid slabs of tawny fur take shape – it’s the Bedinkt pride, this time including two handsome males, all in a post-feeding slumber, distended bellies softly rising and falling.

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They have caught a wildebeest, and lie in the middle of the dry riverbed, maybe 200m from the road. I count 27 jackals, either asleep, sitting watching or pacing in the background, waiting to collect the scraps, but there is little left of the wildebeest. We stop and have our coffee and breakfast, in the shade of a tree, keeping an eye on the lions.

Only the adolescent male (which I have named Spot), is still awake, gnawing away at the bones at the base of the tree trunk, joined later by two cubs.

Here Spot and 2 cubs focus on the remains – note the huge belly on the left :shock:

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The jackals are wary and patient. The warm morning sun is too much for some of them, and about 14 jackals squeeze together in the narrow shade of a small bush nearby, and sleep, quite amicably.


Eventually only Spot is left at the kill, his family has moved out further into the shade - the jackals advance..

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Spot gives up and joins the others, the jackals move in

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But they are intimidated by the pride male, which moves in and out of the shade.

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Finally, one jackal makes a move, and snatches the wildebeest’s backbone (?)

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A tussle develops for possession

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All the snarling and yapping arouses Spot’s interest, and he rises to retake possession of what remains, sending the jackals into a panicky retreat (there are 14 jackals in this picture)

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Spot is now deliberately sitting on top of the wildebeest remains, occasionally rolling over with the skull and horns held fast in his paws, as if to challenge the jackals to try their luck.

Before we know it, its 11am. Eventually the males head off to find a bigger patch of shade.

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We head back to camp, where some birds join us on the patio, hoping to pick up some lunch crumbs.

I am hopeless with bird (feathered) identification. I have to turn to Roberts’ (bird book) to identify even the most common varieties, so would welcome some assistance, like now…

glossy starling
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:redface: dunno
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crimson breasted shrike
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bulbul?
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yellow billed hornbill
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At 330pm we head south on Marie se Draai, a road that loops off from the main south road, and follows the dry riverbed. At Marie se Gat waterhole, there’s a wide open plain across to the tall dunes on the other side. This area has always produced good sightings.

There are a few gemsbok and a 3 scraggly ostriches. Then a few springbok come up from the south. They seem really cautious, and then start a frantic dash over the last few hundred metres to the waterhole. Then they look back, skittish. Something must be lying in the thick grass. We scan with the binocs, but pick up nothing. :?

Start a slow drive home, looking for the furtive little bat-eared foxes, and 1km before the main road, we are rewarded. :dance:

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this day is over

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Back home,

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we feast on a superb chicken curry, served with papadums, and good red wine – its important to maintain standards in the bush. :wink:

Sitting out on the patio overlooking camp, another warm, dead-calm evening.

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As darkness falls, the first shouts and curses emerge from the campers below, as the camp jackals launch their opening dusk raids. A shrill female camper screeches into the night “daars ‘n jakkals in die kombuis” (there’s a jackal in the kitchen), followed by thumps and squeals as hubby responds….

Three days of lions and so much more. Can it get better than this? Download the day’s photos and then tumble into bed at 8pm. Dreaming of ….well, lions of course.


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Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 11:06 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Location: Fish Hoek, Cape Town
thanks for the comments and encouragement, I am glad you are enjoying the report.

@littlesimba - yes, the KTP is where I want to be, its a special place, and I "connect" with it in a way I cannot explain, and do not experience in other game reserves.

With the first 4 days like this, you actually begin to welcome a "normal" :?: day with no major sightings, and some rest for the eyes which by now were :big_eyes:


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Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 11:29 am 
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Junior Virtual Ranger
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Location: Fish Hoek, Cape Town
DAY 5 - at Nossob

Its a chilly morning, and about 10 vehicles are queued at the gate by 7am. We shoot off to Bedinkt to catch the lions for a third day in a row, but are brought to a sudden halt just before Kwang.

Not what we were looking for, but very nice to see… :P

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She sat on this little rise for about 15 minutes, turning her head this way and that. There is a huge herd of springbok on the plains just to the south, but as the bush is quite thick and the springbok are well away from the road, we push on.

At Bedinkt, we start looking for lion tracks, but there is no trace of the pride, and we pass through Langklaas and Kousant, a few hartebeest appear, along with lots of springbok and gemsbok. The vegetation here is quite green.

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We stop at Polentswa and have breakfast, looking out at a small herd of springbok. There are plenty of cat tracks, lion and cheetah, but they are not to be seen. At about 930am we head back to Kwang, and all we see of note on the way is a Bateleur eagle. At Kwang, there is plenty of springbok around. Then a herd of 25 wildebeest comes charging in from the north to drink.

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We have some more coffee and then depart at 1130 for camp.

On the sightings board back at Nossob, lion have been seen at Marie se Draai (MSD). After lunch, as I get my permit from the office at 330pm, the receptionist tells me that lions are at MSD, and on the way there we are stopped by another guest, and given the exact location. What a friendly and helpful bunch, the Nossob folks, going out of their way to share sightings and info. :clap:

Even then, we cannot see the lion, and it takes another guest to help us, it is lying flat in the grass, fast asleep. This is what must have spooked the springbok yesterday; it’s the same area.

There are actually two lions in the grass. Fortunately, this is a mating pair, and every 30 minutes or so they spring into action, initiated by the female. The male is an incredibly beautiful specimen, perfect black mane, almost as though he is wearing an apron of black.

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It’s a tiring affair…

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They mate 4 times, and we enjoy the still, autumn afternoon, with drinks and snacks, as the setting sun lights up the orange dune behind this spectacle.

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There are at most 5 cars at any one time. Leave at 515pm and look for the bat-eared foxes, but no luck this afternoon.

Prepare the braai and crack open a bottle of wine. The roosterbrood (bread baked by the camp staff) arrives, still hot, and we toast the bread on the fire, with a topping of onion, feta and tomato. It’s a warmer than usual evening.

Would tomorrow be our first lion-free day ?


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Unread postPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2007 6:17 pm 
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Location: Cape Town-but dreaming of KTP
Wow Wow and Wow ! Brilliant sightings and brilliant report. :dance: May I help out with the bird....I think your "dunno bird " is a juvenile southern grey headed sparrow. Your bulbul looks like it should be a red eyed bulbul but it seems to have a yellow eye...so I am also confused about that!
Thanks
Michele

_________________
13-15th Oct Kgalagadi Lodge
16th Oct - Twee Rivieren
17-19 Oct - Urikaruus. :)
:) :) :) :) :)


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Unread postPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 7:24 pm 
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Location: Fish Hoek, Cape Town
DAY 6 - at Nossob

This morning we head back to MSD, where it takes a while to pick out the familiar shapes in the morning light - the mating pair from yesterday, sitting under a tree about ¾ of the way across the riverbed.

They resume mating, but the pace is slower, only about every 45 minutes :roll: . She will rise from sleep, nudge the male until he is awake and interested, and then trot away some distance, tail in the air, the male following right behind.

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It’s a shock to suddenly see, rising out of the grass immediately behind them, another large male. He yawns and stretches, and then heads directly towards the pair. I am so engrossed, I forget the camera. He gets too close, and the mating male lunges at him and lands a heavy clout with his massive paw, but then they separate. They must be related / same pride?

In this picture, the intruder walks towards the waterhole - in the grass in the shade of the tree, the mating pair lie sleeping.

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He moves slowly across the riverbed, marking each tree with his scent, spraying it, rubbing or sharpening his claws on its trunk, gradually heading toward the watertank, right next to where we are parked.

He enters the parking area - what a 8) lion

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And then strolls around the side of the car and comes up to the window….this is the last picture I can manage before I lose my nerve, and lunge across for the ignition switch to activate the windows (I am in the front passenger seat). I really thought he was going to stick his head in the window. That is one mean looking dude :shock:

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In typical cat fashion, he turns away from the car at the last minute, and settles down in the riverbed about 10 metres away.

The occupants in all the other cars are having a good laugh at our obvious state of post-lion trauma. It takes a while for us to start breathing again, and realise how funny this must have looked to them. (A good idea to maybe always have somebody on window duty….?)

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:dance: this is my favourite pic of the trip :dance:
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We watched the mating pair until noon. The second male eventually moved to a spot in fairly thick grass about 15 metres from the road, and stayed there until sunset.

We returned in the afternoon. The lions continued to mate throughout the afternoon, but did not come closer to the road.

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So I decided to spend some time on the smaller creatures…

Gerbil (?)
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Shrew
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Peregrine Falcon ?
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This is our last night at Nossob, time to stock up on food for Urikaruus, and then pack.

Our stay on the Nossob has been very rewarding- large herds of antelope, caracal and of course, 15 lions in 6 days :P .

But equally appreciated : all the big-city worries and petty, everyday-issues that we brought from home, have evaporated into the big spaces and the blue skies of the Kalahari. :thumbs_up:

Tomorrow - the dune road, and hoping for a lion-free day :wink:


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Unread postPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 6:51 pm 
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Location: Fish Hoek, Cape Town
DAY 7 - Nossob to Urikaruus, via upper dune road

It’s a very warm, and cloudy morning, which makes for a colourful sunrise.

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We are in the line-up at 6.40am and have a final farewell chat with the morning regulars, then on to MSD.

Fortunately :wink: , there is no sign of the mating lion pair and observer – I could not imagine another day watching lions. We do not wait for them to re-appear….

Also welcome is the recently graded road – what a pleasure, and it makes for a very comfortable, slow drive. Its quiet all the way to Dikbaardskolk, only the usual suspects, and then these two characters who have decided to stay out way beyond bedtime.

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At Dikbaardskolk, the weather has changed and a cold breeze has kept even the weaver birds away. A quick coffee stop before the dune road.

If you are going to fall asleep at the wheel in the KTP, this is where it’s going to happen. Fifty km’s of gravel road over never-ending dunes, up to each crest, then sharply down into the next valley, and then again, and again….Sparse vegetation and few trees.

I have never seen anything really interesting on the dune road – a smattering of gemsbok, a lone hartebeest, token pufadder hauling itself across the road, the odd steenbok, skimpy birdlife.

Well, we were in for a few surprises this time.

First, a dozen meerkats up a no-entry road. I had not seen these since 1994. Too far for a pic, and they quickly scampered away, tails in the air.

Then the ‘helicopter’ bird. I stop the car and switch off the engine to listen to the frantically flapping wings of the Korhaan, and its loud, harsh call, echoing across the silent dune lands

It’s a big surprise at Moravet waterhole, halfway across the dunes, to find the pan full of water. Its clear they must have had a cloudburst here; there are tufts of green grass and about 20 gemsbok on the pan.

In the picture, the water is more to the left of the water tank.

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Then I notice something strange about the gemsbok…

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Very still and staring at something. My binoculars soon reveal the cause….

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Two lions, a long way off, both alert and looking directly at the gems. Then we spot, on the open pan, a jackal, gnawing away at the remains of a kill.

We watch awhile and then a car approaches and informs us of another lion which has just killed an ostrich on the other side of the dune, so we go and check it out.

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So much for a lion-free day… :wink:

But the rest of the dune road is true to expectations.

We reach the Auob at about 12.30 and it’s a shock to see how dry it is. It’s so different to the Nossob. Kamqua plain is just sand, no grass, but a few springbok are about. We drive up to Urikaruus on really bad roads - just some of the regulars, and nice to see again the giraffe

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Check in at Urikaruus and unpack the kitchen stuff, then a short snooze.

Go for a 4pm drive to 13th borehole and spot a good selection of game on the way. It’s a great evening, the wind has died down, and its warm. Watch the gemsbok, springbok and a giraffe drinking, and dozens of birds.

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Back at Urikaruus, it’s an incredibly beautiful sunset scene. There’s a giraffe at the waterhole.

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After a braai out on the deck, watch the sunset and the stars come out – brighter, sharper and seemingly so close, compared to back home. The silence is awesome.

At 7pm, picked up 2 more giraffe at the waterhole, using the spotlight.

Well, the next few days were (finally) to prove lion-free. But we were able to explore new territory and discover other animals. Urikaruus was a good place to start.


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Unread postPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 4:56 pm 
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Location: Fish Hoek, Cape Town
DAY 8 - at Urikaruus

I had spent one night here last September, and promised myself that I would return. There are many reports on the forum which adequately explain why this is a place you would want to visit again and again. So I will only say one word about it – EXQUISITE, and add a few photos to set the scene.

There are only four cabins, looking out across the Auob riverbed and a waterhole. We had cabins #1 and #2. All the cabins have great views.

cabin #1
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View from deck of cabin#2
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Cabins #1 and #2
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View from bedroom of unit #1
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This was meant to be the “holiday” part of the trip– a time to relax, read, de-stress, sleep, a break from driving, the roads and the dust. We were booked for 7 nights, and planned only short drives north and south.

After a leisurely 3-hour breakfast on the deck (when last did I have one of these ??), watching the morning parade, we realized we would have to do a trip to Mata Mata for petrol and some supplies, so we set off at 1230pm.

Its very quiet on the Auob, compared to the Nossob. It takes a while to get used to the narrow riverbed with high dunes on both sides, and the very arid conditions.

At Dalkeith, we find giraffe at the waterhole. They are as usual, very cautious in coming to drink, and it’s a slow process, but they really are elegant and graceful animals to watch, but at the same time rather awkward when drinking or running.

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The wind has come up by the time we reach MM. This whitefaced owl was in the tree outside the shop, refusing to open his eyes.

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A large herd of springbok was at the MM waterhole, so we went to have lunch and watch them from the hide. The campers were only too happy to let us know that a leopard had visited the waterhole at 9am.

On the way back :

Saw very few of these on this trip
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My best guess here is a yellow weaver – I am prepared to be corrected …
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Finch ?
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On our return, giraffe at the waterhole.
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The strong wind dies at sunset and we can prepare a braai on the deck and relax. The guests all have spotlights and we pick up some bat-eared foxes.



DAY 9 - at Urikaruus


A violent wind comes up during the night, and at 6am, its cold in the chalet (about 9 degrees – yes, that’s cold for a Capetonian). The problem is that the cabins offer no protection from the weather outside, they are riddled with gaps and holes, and the canvas flap onto the deck does not seal properly. So it’s more like camping…. :wink:

We drive a short way south, and then up to Dalkeith. It is like the park has been emptied overnight. I have learnt that the KTP on a windy day is usually deserted - apparently the animals stay in the dunes to shelter from the wind and dust.

But still we are given something to enjoy :P . I had seen this wild cat jump up into a small tree on the roadside above Dalkeith, and cut the engine and coasted down the hill, ending up really close. The cat was relaxed at first but then jumped down the other side and went on its way.

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Back at camp, the deck is in the shade and its cold and windy. The regulars pass by.

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The wildebeest always had that weary, hangdog look about them, trudging through the dust.
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After a long afternoon snooze (an important component of any ‘holiday’), it was relaxing to watch the mongooses, ground squirrels and bird life down below the chalets.

This mongoose has the most lucrative territory in the park – under the deck’s wooden slatted floor, picking up all the bits and pieces from above.
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Its too cold tonight to sit outside, and its early to bed.


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Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2007 8:35 pm 
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Location: Fish Hoek, Cape Town
DAY 10 - at Urikaruus


Another day in Paradise. But a cold paradise : when the alarm sounds at 6am, the temperature stands at just 1 degree.

As we follow the usual morning routine in the kitchen, the massive pounding of hooves outside produces a moment of incomprehension, followed by a frantic un-zipping of the canvas “door” onto the deck. Its still dark outside. Dust falls on us like snow. In the distance, wildebeest exit south down the riverbed. Lots of them.

Minutes later, padding along with the usual slow swagger, 3 lions come up to the waterhole to drink, in the semi-light.

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They move off to the bush on the far side of the riverbed and settle down. Great. My theory is that as soon as they sense the first rays of sun, they will enter slumber mode, then sleep the whole day directly opposite my cabin. This is gonna be the best of days. Lions all to ourselves, occasionally coming to drink at the waterhole. :P

Of course, in KTP things never turn out the way you expect them to. :wink:

The lead lioness rises and moves swiftly south in the direction of the wildebeest, the other two follow shortly.

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Within 5 minutes, we have packed the car and find ourselves on top of the dune behind camp, which presents a wide view of the riverbed south and surrounding dunes. We pick up the lions, they are definitely on the hunt and move quickly.

But what are they hunting? The wildebeest are surely in TR by now. We scan the dunes to the south. And we lock onto the target :

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Unfortunately, the lions move further into the dunes, and are soon lost to sight. We decide to follow the prey, and shoot down into the valley to a point where we expect the giraffe are located.

The lions soon flush them out, down into the valley.

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All legs, necks, tails, thundering past us.

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By now the sun is up, and I suspect the lions have given up for the night, and are lying in the sun, up in the dunes. We patrol up and down for a while hoping the lions would enter the riverbed, but no luck. :( (The next morning, we would find their tracks entering the road at this same spot, and moving down to Kamqua).

Suddenly, 90 wildebeest exit from the dunes into the riverbed. They are in no hurry, but probably feel safer in the valley.

We move to Kamqua, up onto the dune road, and watch the wildbeest approach the waterhole.

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They stick to the defined, well-worn paths, even though there is no vegetation.

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We enjoy our coffee and breakfast. And watch as the first of 18 vehicles stream south from KTC and MM.

Then we move down to Rooibrak, and find this lion up on the dune, already settled down for the day.

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Its back to camp to spend a relaxing afternoon watching the comings and goings, mainly wildebeest and springbok. Just before sunset, I take these pics of the waterhole.


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The wind has died down and its warm enough to enjoy supper out on the deck.


Last edited by peterbee on Sun Jul 08, 2007 1:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2007 6:43 pm 
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Location: Fish Hoek, Cape Town
@ salva - yes, a lot of lions, perhaps too many ? More on this later in the report. Last Sept, we saw 26 individual lions over two weeks. This time......well, I won't spoil the fun, there are still seven days to go :wink:

@anne-marie and wanderw - thanks. The Auob lions were a lot more elusive than their Nossob counterparts. Of course, a trip to the KTP cannot be measured by number of lion sightings, it offers so much more. A Kudu, badger or striped polecat would have been equally welcome ..... :D

@dreamer - it's that good??? well, I have no time for a report today :( , so your son will enjoy your company. Back tomorrow with much more...

@ john & skillie - now if this report produces another two converts to the cause of conserving this unique park, I will be mighty pleased :P . Don't think, don't delay, just book, pack and go :thumbs_up: let me know when you have booked your accommodation......... :wink:

@michele - thanks for the help with the yellow bird. Now calling all bird experts....... :yaya:


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Unread postPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2007 11:11 am 
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Location: Fish Hoek, Cape Town
DAY 11 - at Urikaruus

During the night, the unmistakable whooop whooop of the hyena.

There are fresh leopard tracks beneath the cabins this morning.

Head off south on a not so cold morning, and pick up the lion tracks at the spot where the giraffe came out of the dunes yesterday. Follow them via Kamqua, across the picnic spot, back onto the road and all the way to Rooibrak, where they disappear – maybe they joined up with the large male seen on the dune? I hope they never scrap the dirt roads in KTP – early morning lion tracking is great fun, you just never know what you will find.

Back to Kamqua picnic spot for breakfast. Here the lion tracks move between the tables and braai spots. This is a morning for the birds : whitefaced owl, crimson breasted shrike, martial eagle, lilac breasted roller, and tawny eagle.

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Then up to the 13th borehole, where we spot an African wild cat. We named him Corner Cat, because we saw him several times over the next 5 days, always on a particular bend on the loop road just beyond the 13th borehole.

He sat for while
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Those ears look suspiciously familiar to those of the caracal ???
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Then moved off to hunt
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Stopping at this burrow and standing motionless, before giving up
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A giraffe on the way home
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Back to camp for the afternoon. Set off at 4pm to Rooibrak, but its deadly quiet. The waterhole is block-booked by 17 glossy starlings, all other birds are chased away.


A rather meager day, relatively speaking, but the weather is being nice to us with a perfect, calm and very warm evening, so we braai some more lamb chops on the deck and relax.


Day 12 - at Urikaruus

Its difficult to capture in photographs or put into words the atmosphere at Urikaruus, but I will try.

So far we had been unable to resist the idea that a whole lot of interesting sightings were going down outside camp, and had therefore ended up most days doing at least one outing.

Today we declared car-free, which meant we would spend the entire day in camp.

Trapped on our deck, on this day we were able to sense and absorb the slow, eternal rhythm of life in the Kalahari. Starting soon after sunrise, dozens of doves would be first at the waterhole, gentle flapping of wings, followed later by a swarm of raucous sandgrouse. Then the springbok would silently amble up for a drink, and the wildebeest would wait for them to depart before staggering down from the dunes, and then running the final 100 metres in a cloud of dust. The mongoose and ground squirrels would appear below our deck, always hopeful for some scraps, but then accepting another day of nibbling loudly on seed pods from the trees next to the cabins. Smaller birds would land on the deck railing, and then swoop into the kitchen to clean up the counter and floors. So silent, that we could hear the jackal’s tongue lapping up the water as he drank at the waterhole. The resident male wildebeest would stand alone, defending his territory.

Our world had shrunk, with only enough space for the present moment. The world beyond the dunes and the dry riverbed, could not trouble us, and became meaningless. This silent panorama, and the life within it, had remained unchanged for maybe a thousand years or more.

Wow, what a special place, and what a privilege to experience it.

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