What a trip! I cannot say if we were just lucky, at the right place at the right time, or if due to this being our second trip, we were starting to learn how the animals behave, but we saw every thing on our bucket list and more. Incredible. As I always say, just being in the kgalagadi with open skies is enough, the sightings are a bonus.
We drove from CT on the last day of Aug, and overnighted at Oranjerus, just outside Upington (fantastic stay over point), and the next day headed into town for last minute shopping and on to KTFP. Arriving just after lunch time and decided to go for a short drive on the Nossob river side. Boom-large male lion! Last year we saw our first lion on day 5. This was going to be a great trip.
Our first night at TR was so cold, it must have reached -8 degrees! My water bottle, not to mention my nose, froze inside the tent! By 7 the next morning it was still -5 -6. Bbbrrrrr!
The next day we drove from TR to Mata Mata, stopping at Houmoed for coffee. 5 separate honey badger came to drink (one item on bucket list ticked, we didn't see any last year).
We saw 3 hyena, mom and 2 pups lying in the sun, and two cheetah eating a wildebeest that drive. Not too bad for our first full day.
Of the four days spent at MM we were lucky to see a single male lion walking the riverbed, 3 male lions snoozing in the sun, and there were reports of a mating pair that we didn't get to see. We managed to track the two cheetah all morning from 13de, convinced they were hungry. They came across a single springbok and prepared to attack but the wind changed and the springbok moved off.
Later that day we went for sundowners, turning a corner just before Dalkeith, we saw 4 springbok on high alert, and across the road there was a female cheetah eyeing them out. Before we knew it she was off and her 3 cubs popped up and followed her. Springbok for dinner! Another bucket list ticked!
A martial eagle seen with a jackal near 14de.
On our way to Nossob we saw the same 3 lions, lying in the sun again. Not much else but what a stunning drive, the upper dune road. There were a lot more green shrubs last year, was interesting to see how the landscape changes.
Nossob was a hive of lion activity. The campsite was full of stories about the lion walking the camp fence and keeping everyone awake. We couldn't wait for the rumbling to start! There were also 7 lion on a kill 2km before kwang, the trees full of vultures and jackal waiting, not so patiently.
We went to the hide just before 10pm, and as soon as the generator was turned off, a hyena appeared. Quite a shy guy, and scared off by the gemsbok drinking. No sign of the lion, so off we went to the tent. As we were climbing in, he started, that deep rumble that you feel deep in your chest, a sound and vibration you won't easily forget! We quickly ran back to the hide but he didn't appear. There is nothing quite like the rumbling of lion at the Nossob campsite
We spent two nights at Nossob and then headed North to Polentswa, stopping at Kwang where a brown hyena was drinking.
On to Polentswa. What a stunning waterhole. By now the temperatures had reached 37 degrees, with that hot dry desert wind that leaves you feeling like a shriveled raisin. We decided to sit in an air conned car at the waterhole rather than at the campsite as there were quite a few bees and wasps around. We just sat, reading our books, watching the wildebeest and red hartebeest at the water. There was only one other car with us, the joys of being up north. At about 430pm, the wildebeest had retreated to the bush, the red hartebeest stood to attention facing the triangle of bush next to us. What was there? We couldn't see anything, and then out she stepped....leopard. She came to the waterhole right in front of us, drank and went back. We followed her, and there was a smaller leopard! Could this be her cub? We are currently awaiting to hear from the leopard guy. But what a privilege to experience that. They say sitting at a waterhole waiting pays off, and it certainly did for us.
Nothing came to visit that night, but waking in the night, in the not so far distance we could hear Africa at night. The roar of lion, the whoop whoop of hyena and jackal cries. Roll over and go back to sleep, content.
The best part of Polentswa is being able to get o the waterhole so early, we saw 3 lion there the next morning, 2 females and a male. The one female gave us a wonderful show of chasing pigeons.
Back to Nossob, much to the envy of our friends with tales of leopard.
We had heard rumors about the 7 lion turning into a pride of ten near Kwang. An early morning drive was successful. What a marvelous sighting. 4 cubs, 2 subadults, 2 females and 2 large males. Not to mention 20-odd jackal awaiting the teaming wildebeest carcass. I could have stayed watching all day. The way the cubs were playing, tackling each other, stalking the jackal and of course trying to get the prize-what looked like the poor wildebeests tail, from each other. And the adults were calling to another lion over the ridge. The females stalked off, and the main male followed. Convinced we were about to witness a lion fight, but nothing came of it. This for me was the best sighting and another bucket list item (more than 5 lion doing something other than sleeping).
Driving back to camp, we laughingly commented that it would be nice to see a cheetah again, as it had been a few days since we witnessed the springbok kill. Well, not 2 minutes later, about 400m north of camp, 3 cheetah heading to the hide. Unbelievable. There was a flurry of cars and decisions of do we stay north, go to the hide or head south where two springbok were grazing. Being the passenger I had to open the gates-the grass was checked multiple times before getting out! Alas they lay own and dozed and we had to head to Rooiputs. Our friends saw them later that day make an attack on the springbok but missed.
On our way to Roopiuts we saw a leopard at Kameelsleep. No lies, best day ever! 10 lion, 3 cheetah and a leopard. After that we stopped looking!
Our last two days were spent relaxing at camp, I mean, what more could we see?!? On a short drive the next morning we did see more hyena and another brown hyena near leeuwdril. Later we saw a Giant Eagle owl near TR and a cape fox near Kij Kij. Another night under African skies and our trip was complete.
We will be back next year, more open skies, stars and rumbling lion await.