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 Post subject: Lisa & Mark's amazing first trip to KTP! December 2008
Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 28, 2008 11:40 pm 
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Mark and I recently returned from an absolutely incredible time in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. It exceeded all of our expectations in every way. I must thank everyone here at the forums for inspiring us to take this trip and for being so generous with your advice and trip planning information -- it was all of your trip reports that gave us the idea and convinced us to go. We saw far more game than we did on 2 previous trips in Kruger, and we are now confirmed KTP addicts, already planning a return trip for next year! I am still a bit of a newbie at trip reports but will do my best here, so please bear with me.

We flew nonstop from Washington DC to JNB, overnighted there, then flew the following morning to Upington where we rented a Nissan X-Trail at Hertz. We really liked this vehicle and the nice guy at the rental desk kindly offered us the use of a large cooler for our trip, which we proceeded to fill up at the Pick & Pay before heading up to KTP. The road to the park was all paved (the road crew was finishing up painting lines on the last few kms) and in great shape.

December 3, 2008: We arrived at the park gate in the late afternoon, bought our Wild Card, and checked in at Twee Rivieren where we were given #1. The best thing about this unit was that it was on the end so there were no other people driving by, and we enjoyed watching the families of yellow mongoose and ground squirrels playing nearby. We quickly unloaded the car and went for a short game drive before gate closing time. A quick look at the sightings board, a stop at the petrol station to let some air out of our tires, and we were off! The Nossob road was closed because of recent heavy rain, so we did not have any disagreement about which road to take :)

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 Post subject: Re: Lisa & Mark's amazing first trip to KTP!
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 29, 2008 12:02 am 
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Here are the first things we saw:

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This kori bustard was kneeling -- something we had never seen before:
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The sunset was gorgeous!
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Back in camp, we enjoyed a hearty dinner in the restaurant and went to bed early, jetlagged and thrilled to finally be enjoying the place we had looked forward to for so long -- but we had no idea of the excitement that was still in store for us that night!

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 Post subject: Re: Lisa & Mark's amazing first trip to KTP!
Unread postPosted: Mon Dec 29, 2008 12:36 am 
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:dance: Great! Looking forward to your report!

Kori bustard's often kneel. In fact they do this when drinking. Unlike most other birds they suck water in to their mouths and do not throw their heads back to drink.

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 Post subject: Re: Lisa & Mark's amazing first trip to KTP!
Unread postPosted: Tue Dec 30, 2008 2:13 pm 
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Thanks for all of the encouragement from my fellow KTP nutters! :lol:

So Mark and I went to sleep. In the middle of the night I was awakened by him yelling, "Ugh, there was just something on my face! I think it was a huge spider or a bat or something!"

"Oh sweetie," I said, "I'm sure it wasn't a bat, it was probably just an insect or something. Go back to sleep."

Mark turned on the light and this guy was looking at us innocently from the wall across the room:

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Mark looked at me, and I said, "You know that is just an old wives tale about bats going in peoples' hair. Bats are not the least bit interested in people. I am sure it wasn't the bat. Go back to sleep."

So we went back to sleep. About an hour later, I was awakened again, this time by the light coming on. Mark jumped up and pointed to his pillow. There was the little bat, snuggled up cozily and looking quite contented. :o

Mark got two dinner plates from the kitchen, picked up our bat friend between them, and released him out the front door where he flew off into the night. Then, of course, we had to take all of the sheets and pillowcases off of Mark's bed or he wouldn't have been able to sleep. :P This meant we had to take the sheets and pillowcases from the third bed in the room which we were not using. So we pulled that bed out from the wall to remove the sheets, only to discover a very large ant construction project all over the wall behind that bed. :roll:

Anyway, we finally managed to get back to sleep but our little bat friend gave us some good laughs in the morning.

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 Post subject: Re: Lisa & Mark's amazing first trip to KTP!
Unread postPosted: Wed Dec 31, 2008 2:49 pm 
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Location: Looking for Bats...
Thanks Lisa!!!

Waiting for more!!

And lovely pics!

PS. It is a cape serotine bat

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 Post subject: Re: Lisa & Mark's amazing first trip to KTP!
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2009 12:05 am 
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Happy New Year everybody!

December 4th --

We woke up at Twee Rivieren and enjoyed watching all of the yellow mongoose and ground squirrels running around.
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They were so fun to watch that we did not leave camp as early as we had hoped. Eventually we had to leave though, because the Nossob road was still closed so we were going to have to take the long way to get from Twee Rivieren to Nossob.

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 Post subject: Re: Lisa & Mark's amazing first trip to KTP!
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2009 12:37 am 
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Sorry if that last set of pics were too big -- I'm still trying to get the hang of this. I have been trying to post thumbnails that you can click on to see the larger image but it does not seem to be working for me. I will keep trying.

Anyway, driving north up the Aoub riverbed was beautiful scenery and we even got a glimpse of several meerkats who seemed to be sharing a burrow with some yellow mongoose and ground squirrels -- unfortunately I could not grab my camera quickly enough but Mark did get a little video which I can try to post here at some point.

We did see this cobra raiding a big weavers' nest:
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At Auchterlonie we got out to stretch our legs:
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We turned east and did not see much of anything at all, turned north again at Kij Kij, and still did not see much until shortly after Dikbaardskolk where we saw.... :shock:
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We were thrilled to see lions within our first 24 hours in the park and could already tell that this trip was going to be something very special!

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 Post subject: Re: Lisa & Mark's amazing first trip to KTP!
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2009 12:53 am 
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As we got closer to Nossob we saw this lovely tawny eagle:
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Finally we arrived at Nossob and were given 10b. Unfortunately two of the three sets of glass doors would not open, so it was very warm inside the room. As it began to get dark we went to the hide to see if there was anything interesting, and we amused ourselves for quite a while watching some jackals eat their weight in beetles, catching them in midair and munching them with gusto! Later as we sat outside eating our dinner we were visited by one of the resident jackals which we had been warned about, but he did not try to approach too closely.

December 5th -- All along the Nossob road we saw tons of these guys:
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Each shrub seemed to have its own, bobbing his head to warn off potential trespassers.

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 Post subject: Re: Lisa & Mark's amazing first trip to KTP!
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2009 4:09 pm 
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Thanks for the encouragement everybody. I promise you we have some amazing stuff coming up to share!

We decided to drive north from Nossob. Unfortunately this morning was kind of a quiet drive, but we enjoyed it anyway.

We saw this kori bustard:
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Some pretty plovers:
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Finally we parked ourselves at one of the waterholes and enjoyed the parade of general game coming to drink, including this secretary bird.
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Some skittish hartebeest with young ones.
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One of the young hartebeest was kneeling like a warthog :)
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They were very cute!
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We had never seen so many secretary birds all in one place before -- at one point there were at least 6 of them that we could see.
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One at a time they would come to the water to drink...
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...fly away...
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...and another would step up and take its turn.
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Even the butterflies were congregating anywhere the ground was damp.
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This gemsbok took a drink and then used his long tongue to clean his nose!
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At Polentswa we decided to turn around and head slowly back to Nossob for a siesta. On the way back we saw this lovely martial eagle...
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...a male ostrich doing his best to impress the ladies...
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...and this very fluffy bateleur.
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Finally, just before arriving back at Nossob, we saw a black breasted snake eagle (thanks to wanderw for the correct ID :thumbs_up: ) having some difficulty choking down what was apparently a large serpentine lunch! He looked very funny, cocking his head to and fro, but we watched him for quite a while and he did not seem to be making any progress!
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Finally we returned to Nossob for lunch and a brief siesta, with no idea of the fantastic sighting that awaited us for later that afternoon... :whistle:

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Last edited by lisa on Fri Jan 02, 2009 1:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Lisa & Mark's amazing first trip to KTP!
Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2009 9:22 pm 
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That afternoon after siesta we decided to head south from Nossob because someone there told us that there was a pride of lions near the side of the road several kms away.

Just as the light began to get golden and pretty we could not believe our good fortune to see four gorgeous lions, three young adult males and one female, right next to the road, so close that we could have touched them. I am not a great writer so I cannot explain what this sighting was like except to say that it was one of the most stunning things I have ever seen in my entire life. Looking into their eyes was like seeing into the future: pure potential, knowing no limits, a kind of terrible beauty that brings a lump to your throat and runs chills up your spine. And we were utterly alone with them.

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We were with them from shortly after 5pm until nearly 6:30pm, with not another soul in sight. What a privilege.

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 Post subject: Re: Lisa & Mark's amazing first trip to KTP!
Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 1:17 pm 
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Thanks for all of the kind comments!

wanderw -- I am sure you are right, it is definitely not a martial eagle after all -- does look like a black breasted snake eagle -- a very lazy ID on my part!

Here are a few more.

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All of them seemed to have very healthy teeth! :)

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Here is my attempt at a self-portrait (see mirror) with the lions. :lol:

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Finally we left the lions as it was time to head back to Nossob.

The setting sun cast golden light on this tree with two bateleurs, who looked like an old married couple discussing something important.

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And this jackal seemed curious about us, trotting closer for a better look.

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We reached camp just moments before the gate closed, opened a bottle of wine and sat outside listening to all of the wonderful sounds as we marveled at what we had seen that day. I was almost worried that the rest of the trip might seem anticlimactic, since I doubted we could see anything that would top those gorgeous lions, but boy was I wrong! The next morning would bring even more spectacular sights! :wink:

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I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list. – Susan Sontag
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 Post subject: Re: Lisa & Mark's amazing first trip to KTP!
Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 9:24 pm 
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December 6th --

We woke up early at Nossob and loaded the car up as we were headed to Kalahari Tented Camp for the night. Before leaving Nossob, we decided to check the hide and were glad we did as there were three lions there drinking at the waterhole -- two juvenile cubs and a young adult (presumably female, although it was still pretty dark out, and the light was no good for photos yet). They only stopped momentarily at the waterhole for a drink and then kept walking purposefully, heading south. We thought this was a good omen and as we drove south on the Nossob Road we looked intently for them and again for the lions we had seen the previous evening. But all the way to Dikbaardskolk we did not see much of anything. We were about to turn to go west and start heading toward the Aoub side, but at the last minute decided to keep heading south a few more kilometers just to see if the lions were around anywhere.

About 5 to 7 kms south of Dikbaardskolk shortly after 8AM, Mark said "Can you back up a little? I think I saw something that looked like a cheetah." Of course at this point in our trip we had had many of these moments where one of us thought we saw something only to get out the binocs and realize the "lion" was really a termite mound or the "cheetah" was really a dead branch -- we started calling them "leopard-rocks" and "lion-trees" when this happened. Nevertheless, any time either of us thought we might have seen something, we always double-checked, because you never know.

So I backed up a few meters and here is what we saw:

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Yay! It was a female cheetah with three juvenile cubs resting in the shade near the side of the road.

They weren't doing much, but the mother was gazing interestedly at a herd of springbok far off in the distance, so we decided to wait for a while and see what might happen. After 30 minutes or so she stood up...

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...stretched...

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...yawned...

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...and started walking slowly going south toward the faraway springbok.

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The cubs were following several paces behind their mother.

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Another car coming from the opposite direction pulled up directly in front of us and began to take photos of the cubs. Finally the mother cheetah decided to cross to the other side of the road getting closer to the springbok, so she was on the east side of the road where the riverbed was and her cubs were on the opposite side of the road. Unfortunately the other vehicle at this sighting decided to back up :x (following the cubs in the direction they were walking, southward), and going in reverse (instead of turning around), they positioned themselves directly in the road between the mother and her cubs :evil: , so the mother immediately turned around and returned to the cubs -- but not before the other vehicle almost ran her over going backwards!! :evil:

At this point Mark and I practically had steam coming out of our ears. Not only had they ruined a lovely sighting, but what was worse, they had interfered with the mother's potential hunt, and in the process they had come very close to hitting the mother with their vehicle!! I took a few deep breaths and asked Mark to pull up next to the other vehicle.

As we pulled up, I explained as politely as I could that the mother had been getting ready to hunt, but that when they got between her and her cubs, she had stopped and returned to them, and that their vehicle had come very close to hitting her. We suggested as nicely as we could that they try to avoid getting between the mother and cubs, and that they give them a little room. "Oh, OK" they said. :wall: :roll:

By now the mother and cubs were all together again, on the side of the road they had originally started from, resting in the shade of a shrub. We settled down again for what we knew could be another long wait, to see if she would try a second time... :pray:

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 Post subject: Re: Lisa & Mark's amazing first trip to KTP!
Unread postPosted: Sat Jan 03, 2009 3:22 am 
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We waited in the sun for a while but shortly after 9AM it started to get very hot in the car so we decided to pull forward into the shade under a tree to wait, a little closer to the springbok herd. This would put us in a good position because if the cheetahs decided to hunt again they would be walking toward us. After about another half hour or so, sure enough they were on the move again.

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The mother led the way with her head crouched low...

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...and the cubs followed, doing their best to imitate her, with varying degrees of success -- the first very serious, the second making a solid attempt, and the third quite easily distracted...

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Then the four of them walked in the road directly in front of us for a while, using the high sides of the road as a cover. Those of you who know the Nossob road know that in many places it is shaped like a "U", very low in the middle and high on the sides. Every once in a while the mother would peer carefully up over the edge to see where the springbok were, and seeing that they were still a distance off, she would return to the road and keep walking steadily toward them, leading the cubs. We followed them slowly and at a distance so as not to disturb them, feeling full of suspense and anticipation, as they kept walking closer and closer to the springbok... :D

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 Post subject: Re: Lisa & Mark's amazing first trip to KTP!
Unread postPosted: Sat Jan 03, 2009 3:41 am 
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The next thing we knew, they were off in a flash, running so fast that we could not see where they went. We pulled forward to a place where we could try to see where they were, and saw that the mother had caught a baby springbok and and her cubs were running toward her. Then she let the springbok go and went to lie down in the shade under a tree not far away. By the time we were able to get our cameras up, here is what we saw:

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I will try to let my photos tell as much of the story as possible, as I think they can tell the story better than I ever could.

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I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list. – Susan Sontag
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 Post subject: Re: Lisa & Mark's amazing first trip to KTP!
Unread postPosted: Sat Jan 03, 2009 3:39 pm 
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During the chase we could hear the tiny springbok bleating. Somehow the herd of springbok looking on made the scene even more poignant. But this is not the end of the story. This little springbok should get a gold medal for bravery and persistence. The three young cheetahs took turns chasing and catching the tiny springbok, but each time they did, they looked around as if to say "now what do we do?" Eventually the baby springbok would get up and run away again, and the cheetahs would have to chase it down again. This went on for perhaps about 20 minutes, up and down the riverbed.

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