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 Post subject: WeskusKlong There are lions in our camp! Oct '12
Unread postPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 10:38 am 
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Day one:

On Saturday 29 September 2012 @ 03:00, we departed on one of our most memorable trips ever to Kgalagadi. Due to the many stop/go sections on our normal route over Brandvlei, we opted to travel via the N7 – over Springbok and then on to the N14 over Pofadder. This turned out to be a good decision, since despite frequent indications of road construction activity along the route; we never had to stop at any stop/go. At 1.53 PM we passed one of the most photographed signs in the Northern Cape.

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At 16:30, 2 trusty Isuzus stopped at Twee Rivieren reception.

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We were happy to share our special destination with dear friends of ours. Our son Joshua was over the moon with his 3 friends on this trip.

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After doing the necessary at reception, we departed to Twee Rivieren where would spend our first night. While we were pitching camp we were privileged to be visited by KG and family, who just returned from Augrabies. I was stunned to see how big Stephan got since I last saw him in November 2011. He’s a big boy now - taking a lot after his dad.

We settled for a very relaxed evening – happy to have red sand under our feet again. Little did we know what action lay ahead! Tomorrow we are off to Rooiputs...

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 Post subject: Re: There are lions in our camp!
Unread postPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 1:56 pm 
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Day Two:

Day two dawned on our first morning at Twee Rivieren. For some reason it was bitterly cold – much colder than what we anticipated, so we were glad to eventually see the sun rise. After yesterday’s long haul from the Cape we were not eager to get in the vehicles so we packed at a leisurely pace and then had a shower. Since our next three nights will be at Rooiputs we also filled our shower bags and water tanks with water.

On route to Rooiputs we saw many Gemsbok. I was amazed to see that they were vey skittish – running away from the vehicle as we approached. We also saw one of KG’s famous cameras at Leeudril:

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At the Rooiputs turn-off there were a few Cheetahs leisuring under a tree. There were quite a few vehicles around so I pushed on to our fenceless campsite – amazingly just on the other side of the dune. I wished we could just walk to the cheetahs – instead if queuing in a vehicle to catch a glimpse. All my photos are from a video camera so please don't expect high end stuff:

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I was o so happy to arrive at our beloved campsite 1. We quickly conferred with our travelling partners before pitching camp. We decided to pitch our tents on either side of the A-frame. This created a zone between the two camps where we can easily manage the kids – always not to far away from the relative safety of the vehicles/tents. Notice my chair under the tree? That's where I would often sit and have a watchful eye over the camp. You never know when visitors may arrive...

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It was late afternoon when a slight disaster struck – literally. I was busy doing what men do at campsites – sorting out some wood at the fireplace. I did what of have done many, many times before – splitting some braai wood with a hand axe, when the blade’s sharp edge slipped of the wood I intended the split – on to my right hand, splitting it wide open! Blood was rushing out the gaping wound. I went sitting on the open load bay door of the Isuzu, trying to keep the wound closed with my left hand. With blood still streaming from it, it was evident that I managed to cut a vein. Last thing I knew is this was a potential problem. We were in an un-fenced camp with my vehicle pinned down by a roof top tent-with-annex combination. I had thoughts of Upington and stitches when I lost my consciousness…

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 Post subject: Re: There are lions in our camp!
Unread postPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 3:41 pm 
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Thanks for all the concern :redface: ! I’m quite OK. Surprisingly the hand did not hurt much. It was uncomfortable but not to sore. When I woke up, the two women in the group (wife and friend) were attending to my hand. The bleeding has stopped, my hand was bandaged. It turned out that our friends had a wonderful product in their first-aid kit – called SteriStrips. It is a “stick-on stitch” to hold a wound together until it can be properly stitched-up the old fashioned way. I realized I would either have to be very careful with my hand as it is now or face the real chance of packing up and driving to Upington if the wound opens up again. All of a sudden simple tasks like deploying the solar panel, putting up the shower bag or braaing became a challenge. I realized the value of having travelling companions. We usually travel alone. This time we had friends around when we needed them. Usually I would do most of the heavy work in camp – carrying crates around etc. All of a sudden I had to stand back, look and feel clumsy. That was most probably the most difficult part of the week that lay ahead – not being able to contribute to the full.

It was much later in the week that we realised how well the wound healed – thanks to skilful treatment with proper first aid kit and a lot of grace from above.


The rest of our first day at Rooiputs went without a hitch.

The usual night-time visitors came around:



After a good night we woke to a glorious day:

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The women took the kids for a game drive, with my friend graciously staying with me. Apart from just hanging around I did not do much. My wife also had to do what I normally do – to bake bread:

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That night at around 12:00 the roaring started. The lions sounded very close but I thought they were quite far away – at the Rooiputs waterhole about 500 m away from our campsite. It was a glorious sound to hear but also close enough to keep us awake. I thought how lucky we were to hear the lions this “close”. Little did I know what will happen during our third night at Rooiputs…

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 Post subject: Re: There are lions in our camp!
Unread postPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 9:36 am 
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Day Three:

Early morning we drove down to Rooiputs waterhole with my friend’s Isuzu. The lions still roared every now and then from that direction so I was sure that we will find the whole pride there. Big was my surprise when we only found one big old male – very alone. I got the idea that he may have been recently dethroned as pride leader. He still looked in good shape but certainly a bit over the hill. In an effort to find the pride we drove up and down the Nossob road, but found nothing. Returning to camp we learned that the roaring continued in our absence – close to camp but no lions visible. Must say that is a bit disconcerting hearing lions close by and not see them. The roaring stopped and we went on with our daily routine.

Sunset was as glorious as every other day. One could just stare and stare more. It is wonderful to see such a sunset in the Kgalagadi with no obscuring fence.

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It was about midnight when the roaring started again. It sounded closer than the previous evening but I thought it may be due to the slight wind blowing from that direction.

It must have been about 03:30 when I heard something fall over under the A-frame. The moon was full so one could actually see quite a bit without a torch. I looked out and saw a lioness walking past the tent. A few others were paying much attention to one of our friend’s tables on the cement slab under the A-frame. I woke my wife with an excited whisper – “There are lions in out camp!”

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 Post subject: Re: There are lions in our camp!
Unread postPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 11:01 am 
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@ Scouter yes the truth is still sinking in - goodbye Rooiputs as we knew it. :cry:
@lion queen, Sparrow I'm posting as I am getting time to write :twisted: .
@Jo, yes providing you carry your sewing kit AND some local anesthetics :D .

In the meantime, a bit earlier and with us still fast asleep: Our friends went to their porta –loo right next to the trailer tent. Just back in tent, still settling in bed they heard a noise outside. They were sleeping on ground level in the tent, with the kids sleeping on the trailer (in the same tent setup). As my friend looked out the gauze window he faced three lionesses very close to the tent – clearly coming to investigate the noise. He could not see his Isuzu from the tent but according to the noises a few others were having a party on the vehicle. Some played with one of the anchor ropes of their tent awning until the pole dropped, now obscuring the view from the tent, whilst some more were playing soccer with the table under the A-frame (it certainly sounded that way!)

This must have been around the time that I woke. I could hear the commotion at our friends’ tent but could not see out ours in that direction. Apparently in an effort to see out their tent my friend opened one of the zipped gauze windows. A lioness clearly in my vision surged forward in the direction of the sound – tail upright and ears pitched. She was obviously very alert but thankfully lost interest when no more noises came from the tent’s direction. I was amazed to see just how energetic and alert all the lions were. I could see others running around – chasing each other. Since I did not have full vision of our surroundings I could not count the lions but they were a lot.

The noise of the lions at our friends’ tent continued. Next moment my friend started banging the trailer’s side to scare the lions. Although it was tensed moments it was a bit funny to see them running into my view – but they would run only for a few meters and then turn around, watching the origin of the noise with great interest. It was most probably the right thing to do in order to get some distance between them and the lions, but it also drew some attention:



An eerie silence followed. I wondered what next. I was glad the moon was full. This enabled me to study the lions’ behavior. I have heard many stories about lions visiting camps at night. We were fortunate to actually see what they are up to (mostly). Although a bit startled by the noise now, the lions were not ready to leave yet. Some that already moved to the next camp actually came back…

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 Post subject: Re: There are lions in our camp!
Unread postPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2012 1:53 pm 
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I all along expected a pride visit (or hoped for one at least) so brought along an infra-red torch to use with my video camera’s night vision mode, but since I had one hand bandaged and since the infra-red torch was in my vehicle I decided to only do audio recordings. I would have had to open the tent annex’s zip to get to the torch and seeing the lionesses’ reaction to the zip noise from my friends’ tent I decided it was best just to keep still. The roaring started again – this time it was IN our camp:



A very tall walking young male lion was strutting around, passing right under my roof top tent’s window. I wondered if he dethroned the male down at the waterhole. He certainly had the attitude of a newly crowned king! He moved out of my vision around the front of the vehicle. The next moment I heard a commotion on the other side of the vehicle – at out porta – loo enclosure no more than a meter away from us in the tent. I heard a ripping sound – mr. lion clawed our porta-loo enclosure.

Slowly but surely the lions started to leave our camp – moving on to the next campsite. By now day was breaking and I could actually see quite well. I opened the roof top tent window, got out onto the vehicle roofrack, from where I had a 360 Deg. view of our surroundings. No more lions in our immediate vicinity. Now it was the people at site 5 having a visit by the lions. They must have heard our commotion and since it was day-break could actually see the lions coming, as we could see them sitting in their vehicles.

I did a bit of damage assessment. The toilet enclosure was a bit mauled:

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The fairly new table looked a bit warn, with a hole in it – most probably a tooth mark:

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No vehicle damage. Just a lot a lion spoor around. The male’s spoor was very prominent. Certainly bigger than my no.9 :D .

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It was the birthday of one of our friends’ kids – turning six. The first words she said after the ordeal were that it was her best birthday ever!

All the vehicle wheels were sprayed with insect repellent (doomed so to speak :wink: ), so maybe it worked, as we had no tyre damage. The stench around the site was unbearable – especially under the A-frame. Our porta-loo enclosure was also covered with lion pee. Clearly they came to assert their territorial dominance.

I learned quite a bit from this ordeal:

1. The lions did not just past through. The came to visit each camp purposefully. They are very much aware of us and duly came to leave there signatures in our camp.
2. Stand 1 (ours) had the longest visit. They then went on to site 2, seemed to skip 3,4 (or visit briefly) and moving over to site 5, before exiting in the direction they came from, past site 6.
3. Lions are hyper sensitive to any noise at night and do react on it. I suspect if any of the other 2 senses (i.e. seeing, smelling) are also triggered at the same time, things may turn bad.
4. The best defence to lions in the camp is to do absolutely nothing. Be very still and they will ignore you. As a last resort I always carry pepper spray with me at these camps during night time.
5. A porta-loo is a good idea but be sure the smell attracts lion attention. I thought of that but also thought the smell of the chemicals will mask any urine sent. Wrong.

It was our morning of departure at Rooiputs – maybe sadly for the last time. So after singing happy birthday to the birthday princess, we decided to pack-up.

The lions were still lying about 100 m away, so we put the kids in the vehicles while packing – all the time having a watchful eye over the lions. Again I saw some humour. Normally we are watching them. Now the are watching us :D . We were on our way to Ai-Ais hot spring resort in Namibia for a well deserved break for the kids. At Mata Mata I parked right against the fence. At least I can wake up looking over the fence – pretending there is none:



Still everything all of a sudden felt very domestic. I missed Rooiputs already… :cry:

At this point in time I don’t know what to do next year to satisfy my KTP craving. I do really love the SA fenced camps but not being able to go to an un-fenced camp as well is a huge disappointment. Maybe do another Eco – at least then we can sleep in the field again…

@ BB: Yes it was strange. I felt happy when the lions left, but also happy when they returned. :?

PS.: If anybody knows what is the position with the old male lion at Rooiputs, I would really like to know as well, thanks.

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Last edited by WeskusKlong on Thu Oct 11, 2012 10:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: There are lions in our camp!
Unread postPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 9:31 am 
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Thanks for all the feedback everybody! I will for certainly cherish our Rooiputs experience forever.

@Crested Val I think one will be naive to think it is not possible that lions can find their way into the tent. In fact that did happen earlier this year on the very same spot as we were at Rooiputs - discussed on the forum elsewhere. In that case again it was because somebody used a torch to shine at the lions. That drew attention and the male came to investigate - shoving his head into the tent.

Many discussions - including on this forum compared roof-top tents with ground tents in such a situation. Let me tell you to theorize about it on a forum is one thing but when those lions arrived I was very glad we were in a roof-top tent. Also we have an annex that zips on to the roof-top tent - providing access to the safety of the car - without exiting the tent structure. The lions never paid any attention to our tent so I honestly never felt threatened. However I had some concern about our friends mainly because I could not see their trailer/tent from ours and because their vehicle was occupied by some of the lions.

In a guided tour situation you will normally have a ranger with a rifle around. Firing a few shots in the air should surely scare the lions away if they become to pushy. We did not have that but I do have a "flame thrower" - just a piece of modified copper pipe that connects to a LP gas bottle. Normally I use it to light the braai fire but if you open the gas wide it can throw a really big flame that should intimidate lions. I had it ready in our annex but as I said we never got to that level. I would have had to exit the tent to use it in any way so only to be used it if the situation became dire.

At the end you just need to be bush-wise and be prepared. Most of all be still in your tent when predators are around. Any sound or movement puts them on alert and if it continuous they will come to investigate.

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 Post subject: Re: There are lions in our camp!
Unread postPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2012 3:06 pm 
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:D :D Thanks BB but don't you think I already created enough fuss!? :redface:. The hand healed unbelievably well (and quick). When I look at the remaining scar it is hard to believe it was such a mess a week and a half ago.

@ruthp I don't think everything is lost. Yes I think Rooiputs had its days but Mabuasehube is a much bigger area and just maybe some of the campsites remains untouched. It will however mean that for us Capies down south it will be a very long trip to get there. Rooiputs was so convenient - and I think that was the campsite's downfall - to accessible. And lets be honest; campers don't want to see lodges on their doorstep and ditto the lodge dwellers don't want to see campers spoiling their view - so guess what will eventually happen once the lodge is operating. :hmz:

Even if the Rooiputs campsites remains, I doubt if I would like to go there again. The presence of the lodge is just spoiling the experience to much. If they just did the construction on the next dune north it would have been OK-ish.

@Divine7polo sorry there is no more - that's my story - until a next time... hopefully.

@Jonkers I just hope (wish) SANParks take note and make an effort to create similar camps on the SA side - FOR KIDS AS WELL!! It is only KTC that provides for an un-fenced experience for families and then it is pricey nogal. The wilderness camps only caters for couples - thereby excluding families. In the links SG provided (thanks again), I read about additional 4x4 camping sites planned by SANParks but they all include the word "luxury". Why on earth do they do that - to raise the price tag? Hope not. The campsites on the Bots side were immensely popular and still they are compromised. The popularity of those camps proof that there are a lot of people wanting to experience nature in its raw format. There can only be one reason why these campsites are marginalized - money generated by them is not enough.

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 Post subject: Re: There are lions in our camp!
Unread postPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2012 10:54 am 
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@onewithnature thanks for the positive feedback!

Yes I have to agree that the behavior of the lions was not exactly what I expected - I always thought they just move through the camp but this was different - they visited us with purpose, in much the same way as jackal etc. does. The amount of sent marking under the A frame and on our porta-loo enclosure tells me that it was a show of dominance. It may be that they thought we are not in camp - not understanding the tent setup (yet). I'm also pretty sure it was the same (now youngsters) lions that messed with our friends' tent than those (then cubs) involved in the other incident at site 1 previously. However I did not sense any hostility towards us - just curiosity. I don't know where this behavior is leading and would have liked the comment of somebody much more knowledgeable than myself (KG?).

All I can say is that it is hard to believe those were the same lazy sleeping cats you see during the day. They were very energetic and very curious about any noise or anything that moves - I suppose thanks to the natural hunting mode that kicks in during lion-business hours :).

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 Post subject: Re: There are lions in our camp!
Unread postPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2012 2:01 pm 
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Thanks DrPhil, I will follow up on that - (I see the book is written by Jan Roderigues).

A similar compilation of stories and also well worth reading is "Die wit Boesman"/"The white Bushman" - as told by Peter Stark, a ranger of yesteryear. It is available in both English and Afrikaans.

I think the perspective of an armed (mostly), experienced ranger is much different from a bunch of holidaymakers-with-kids in a tent. The difference between knowing whats up and not knowing/wondering what next + your responsibility towards the family and invited friends can make the whole experience take on a different shape. For me the biggest unknown was whether the lions will eventually leave or if they were planning to settle in our camp for the day (has happened to a family in Mabua before). We were prepared with water in the tent, but our toilet was occupied - by the lions :lol:. You can figure out the logistic issues involved 8) .

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