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 Post subject: Arks' KTP Adventures: September 2007
Unread postPosted: Fri Dec 28, 2007 3:27 am 
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Location: Cambridge, MA (and home from home in Darling, WC)
Many forumites contributed both directly and indirectly, through trip reports and postings in the Arid Parks Forum, to the planning and success of this trip. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all the forum's KTP enthusiasts. :clap: I am particularly indebted to Jumbo, whose inspirational trip reports filled me with an irresistible desire to return to the Kalahari as soon as I possibly could, and whose practical advice and recommendations added greatly to my enjoyment of this long-awaited return.

General Observations
My previous visit to the then Kalahari Gemsbok Park was in October of 1992, so I was prepared for lots of (mostly positive) changes. Twee Rivieren is, I believe, somewhat larger, but overall seemed little changed, while for me, both Mata Mata and especially Nossob were quite unrecognisable. Both camps are far larger than they were in 1992, when each had at the most five or six very simple bungalows. I think I finally worked out which were the existing, but now much modified, 1992 bungalows at Mata Mata, but I never could work out what remained from Nossob in 1992, the camp seemed quite differently configured, as well as larger. And of course, given how precious (and costly) every frame of slide film was, I didn't take any camp or accommodation photos in 1992. I'd be very curious to see photos from that time, if any forumites might have any old pix from the Gemsbok park?

There have also been changes, many of them improvements, to the Auob and Nossob riverbed roads. I don't recall the "loops" at 13th and 14th boreholes and elsewhere, and of course, the Auob road now also detours away from the riverbed to accommodate the new wilderness camps, Urikaruus and Kalahari Tented Camp. I expect that the Nossob road also detours a bit from its 1992 route to accommodate Grootkolk, and there are several other Nossob loops that I don't think existed in 1992. I also recall that the Nossob camp gate was "downhill" from the camp office and bungalows in 1992.

The lower dune road did not exist in 1992, and the upper dune road was far less "developed". I don't recall the waterholes along this road (altho when I checked my map from 1992, they appear to have been there) and I remember the road being a very simple sand road, not the broad gravel "boulevard" it now is. I suppose that this is necessary for the greatly increased park usage — as well as the predominance of SUVs, 4x4 bakkies, and other heavy vehicles; in 1992 most visitors drove sedans — but I missed the "lost in the dunes" feeling of that older, narrower sand road, winding through the encroaching dunes.

However, the greatest and most disconcerting "change" for me is that the Auob road no longer follows the Auob riverbed all the way to the confluence with the Nossob, but now takes a lengthy 10km detour through the dunes to join the Nossob road south of Samevloeling. I was shocked the first time I drove from Kieliekrankie to TR — having traveled from TR to KK via the Nossob and lower dune roads, this was my first venture onto the Auob road — and missed the old route desperately each time I had to travel this section of the Auob road. I suppose the dune route avoids potential flooding, but it would have been nice if the old road, of which I have very fond memories, had been retained as an alternate or loop route.

Sound and silence
Because I came to Augrabies and Kgalagadi directly from Kruger, I was perhaps more aware than I might otherwise have been of the differences between these park experiences. The obvious difference is the contrast between the density of vegetation — even at the end of a dry winter — in KNP, with the even drier and far more open landscapes in KTP.

However, a far greater contrast is the "deafening" silence in these "arid savanna" parks. In Kruger you drive with your windows open so as never to miss the sounds of birds, insects and wildlife, and whenever you stop, there is plenty to hear. By contrast, in KTP (and in Augrabies as well) I found that silence predominates, and often when you stop, all you hear is the wind. At night the barking geckos take over — except at Grootkolk, tho I've no idea why there was no gecko chorus there — and if you're lucky, you'll hear jackals or even lion calling. In camp there are occasional bursts of birdsong, but again, at least in my admittedly limited experience, silence predominates. One of the most amazing things about Union's End, which is one of my favourite KTP places, is the emptiness and the silence; it was amazing to feel so utterly alone!

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Union's End looking south (top) and north


Kgalagadi animals
Another contrast, I felt, was the difference in behavior vis-á-vis visitors between KNP and KTP animals. In Kruger most animals (and even many birds) seem indifferent to cars, but KTP animals appeared far more skittish and often moved quickly away from the road when I slowed down or stopped. For example, a gemsbok resting in the shade of a thorn bush just a few meters from the road would invariably get quickly to his feet and move off. Birds as well, if perched close to the road, would fly off to a more distant perch, very frustrating when you'd been hoping for a reasonably close photo. The exception is the Kgalagadi lions, which appeared to have no problem whatsoever with the close approach of tourist cars, merely yawning, staring with utter disdain, or rolling over and turning their backs on the noisy tin boxes.

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I had great good fortune with seeing much that was on my wish list — eland (many, often, and up close, which was a first for me), brown hyena, leopard, pygmy falcon, cheetah, whistling rats, African wildcat — but I was also surprised (and even a bit disappointed) by what I didn't see. Try as I might — and I swear I've seen every danged squirrel in the Auob riverbed — I saw no meerkats, nor did I see any foxes, neither Cape (which I've never seen) nor bat-earred.


Sunday 9 September 2007
Today was going to be a very long travel day, with stops in Upington to collect my replacement car, and, I hoped, my missing luggage, followed by shopping at Pick ‘n Pay and Skaapland, before the long trek north to Kgalagadi. However, since no one would be at the Upington airport before 10, I was able to enjoy the sunrise and the antics of the Augrabies camp birds before heading off shortly after 08h00.

Once my various Upington errands were completed, I headed north. The drive from Upington to Ashkam and the end of the tarred road is long and very boring — a straight road traveling over endless rolling red dunes, with little to see beyond the occasional goat or cow. I'd packed some music CDS especially for this drive, knowing that there would be no radio reception, but somewhere along the way, the music CDS had gone missing — I have no idea where. Fortunately I also had two Pieter-Dirk Uys CDS: I can now recite his Truth Omissions and Foreign Aids almost verbatim!

Following forumite advice, I stopped at Molopo Lodge to have my tyres deflated before heading for the remaining untarred portion of the road to KTP. I had read with some scepticism the many reports of the horrors of the KTP access road north of Ashkam, expecting that they were somewhat exaggerated. They were not. On this particular day, this was without a doubt the worst road that I have ever driven (altho a few days later, the Nossob road between Melkvlei and Nossob was to prove even worse). Indeed, even the reputedly preferable alternative "donkey track" was chewed up, rutted and corrugated — clearly by the high-performance SUVs and 4x4 bakkies (most towing trailers) that raced past me (some passing me — at high speed — with only inches to spare) in both directions. I lost a hubcap along this horrendous 30-40km stretch of road and was grateful that the damage to my VW Polo wasn't worse. As for the damage to my nerves .... :roll: :twisted:

Much shaken — literally, both physically and psychically! — I eventually arrived at the Twee Rivieren entry gate and was impressed that the KTP permit includes a list of park rules that every visitor — or rather, every driver — is required to read and sign before entering the park. A short drive up the hill to TR reception and I was quickly checked in by the welcoming reception staffers and settled into chalet #1, at the far northwest end of the camp. It is a bit close to some staff accommodation, so there was occasional, tho not unpleasant, noise of children playing, but it's also a lovely and quite private location, with a dune rising to the north and surrounded by a colony of ground squirrels and yellow mongoose.

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After settling in, I was ready for our planned mini-meet with bucky, penni and suej, and made my way down to the campground to find bucky's caravan. His bright red combi is hard to miss! Bucky treated us ladies to a sumptuous repast featuring my first potjiekos — delish!! — bread baked over the fire, and plenty of excellent SA wine. Good food, good wine and best of all, good company — what better way to start off a KTP adventure!?!

_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


Last edited by arks on Sat Jul 04, 2009 3:15 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Unread postPosted: Sun Dec 30, 2007 3:32 am 
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Thanks Eagle Eyes, African Dreams, and Pumbaa, as well as p@m and wanderw, for your kind comments and for moving us closer to turning the page. Since I had so few pix in my first episode, I am risking adding the second one before the page turns. :whistle:

Monday 10 September 2007
I didn't see anything dramatic on my first Kgalagadi drive, but just being back in the park was it's own reward! :dance: I drove the Nossob road as far as Gunong waterhole, en route seeing my first up close sighting of eland. I learned later that eland are not usually seen in such numbers this far south in the park, but there was an influx of eland from Botswana because water was scarce there after a very dry winter. As has been reported elsewhere, some of these eland were apparently dying due to the unaccustomed rich diet and plentiful water on the South African side of the park. Others, many of them apparently young adults with little knowledge of predators, became easy prey for the KTP lions, and eland kills were common throughout the park during my stay. The KTP lions and jackals were thriving!

On this day my most interesting sightings were birds, including several new to me and several that I am still struggling to ID. At Rooiputs waterhole there was a tree filled with tiny birds — probably sociable weavers — cascading down to the water and back. Every time I stopped at Rooiputs, this was the norm — always the same tree and always full of little birds cascading to and from the waterhole, fascinating to watch! And challenging to photograph, far better on video than in still photos!

After 15 years, I expected changes, and I also wondered whether anything would be familiar. Imagine my surprise when I "recognised" a particular tree along the Nossob road! It seemed quite impossible that this tree, heavily laden with sociable weavers' nests, could really be the same one that I'd photographed in 1992, but when I got back home and looked again at those older photos, it is indeed the very same tree!

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One interesting thing is that while the 1992 photo was taken in October, the tree is quite bare, with no new leaves or flowers. At that time, the Kalahari was several years into an extended period of drought. Even tho this year it was only early September, and, I believe, considered a dry year, the tree shows plenty of new leaves and delicate yellow flowers.

I returned to camp in midafternoon and enjoyed the antics of the camp birds, ground squirrels and yellow mongoose. The squirrels must have been nesting, as they had torn strips of paper from my bag of charcoal and also attacked, unsuccessfully, the plastic bags holding my braai wood. Later, bucky joined me to braai and we chatted late into the evening.

sightings
Nossob road north: forktailed drongo, blackbacked jackal, fiscal shrike, springbok, marico flycatcher, crimsonbreasted shrike, LBJs, tawny eagle, Cape sparrows, yellow canary, lanner falcon, eland, Kalahari robin, scalyfeathered finch, sociable weavers, ostrich, yellow mongoose, pale chanting goshawk, kori bustard, whitebacked vulture, ground squirrel, BBJ
Nossob road south: crows, gemsbok, ostrich, sociable weavers, Cape sparrows, LBJs, slender mongoose, marico flycatcher, kori bustard, secretary bird, wildebeest, eland, yellow mongoose
in camp: ground squirrels, whitebrowed sparrow weavers, crow, yellowbilled hornbill, yellow mongoose, laughing dove, Cape glossy starling

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_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


Last edited by arks on Sat Jul 04, 2009 3:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2008 3:25 am 
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Tuesday 11 September 2007

Since it's only a short drive from Twee Rivieren to KielieKrankie, I decided to linger in camp this morning. I also needed to stock up, particularly with braai wood, before heading north, and I took some time just to browse in the shop, getting some idea of what books and gift items might tempt me on my return to TR.

At Samevloeling a group of young eland were hovering nervously, waiting for the single wildebeest to finish drinking before they approached the waterhole. There was also a hamerkop wading — likely an unusual sighting for KTP I was later told.

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I met bucky a bit farther up the Nossob road and he alerted me to be on the lookout for jackals on an eland carcass quite close to the road, shortly before the turnoff to the lower dune road. He'd had a fine morning photographing the jackals and was now returning to TR to collect his caravan and then heading to Mata Mata.

As I continued north, the wind began to pick up. I found the jackals just as bucky had reported and spent some time with them, but as I continued north again, the wind was howling and the visibility had dropped dramatically. I expect that bucky's drive to Mata Mata towing a caravan was quite a challenge!

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Transiting the lower dune road, the sky was thick with red dust, but I had a terrific sighting of quite a large group of red hartebees, definitely over a dozen and possibly as many as two dozen.

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At KielieKrankie I was allotted chalet #4, at the far end. It's rather a long schlep from the car to the chalet, especially as I needed to unpack and repack my by now quite disorganised bags, but Nikkas the tourism assistant graciously gave me a hand carrying the cases and my wood, groceries, etc. The fierce wind caused bits of the tent to flap wildly, and sand was flying everywhere, rather like a beach house! Since it wasn't too comfortable sitting out on the deck, I stretched out comfortably on my bed and watched the storm's progress — even tho having only one tent flap open did limit the amazing KielieKrankie view.

I was sure it would be too windy to braai — a big thank you to those forumites who recommended bringing pasta as a backup meal for windy nights! — but later on, when the wind did drop, I did light a small braai fire, just for the ambiance. I was glad that it was a very small fire, because the wind picked up again without warning at about 20h00 and blew strongly all night. I slept well despite and awakened to a still breezy dawn.

sightings
Nossob road north: yellowbilled hornbill, eland, wildebeest, hamerkop, Cape sparrows, gemsbok, ostrich, pale chanting goshawk, martial eagle, jackals
Lower dune road: rock kestrel, gemsbok, red hartebees, spikeheeled lark, ostrich, black korhaan

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sunrise at Twee Rivieren
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_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


Last edited by arks on Sat Jul 04, 2009 3:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 2:14 am 
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Wednesday 12 September 2007

The tents at KielieKrankie are spacious and very comfortable — and considerably roomier than either the tents at Grootkolk or the upstairs/downstairs bungalows at Urikaruus. I did find the rustic wooden chairs here and at Urikaruus to be a bit uncomfortable (and a bit large), even tho I used the spare bed pillows for padding. I also found these rustic tables and chairs a bit heavy, at least for me, when I wanted to move them around a bit for the best viewpoint. Also, at KK the rings that secure the tapes that hold the tent flaps open were well out of my reach (and I'm of average height, 5 feet, 5 inches) and I had to climb onto a chair (requiring further moving of those heavy chairs) in order to secure them.

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The waterhole at KK was less active than those at Urikaruus and (especially) Grootkolk, and is a bit farther away from the chalets, but really at KK it is all about the amazing view. To me it feels like you are being "embraced" by the encircling dunes and no photos truly capture the way the horizon of those dunes curves and circles the camp. That feeling of "embrace" is for me utterly extraordinary and unforgettable! Unforgettable too is the cacophonous night time chorus of what I assume are the barking geckos I've read about.

I don't remember this gecko chorus at all from 1992 and wonder whether, since that was at the end of a long period of drought, perhaps the geckos had disappeared because of the drought? I also don't remember seeing or even hearing about the whistling rats in 1992 and wonder what other creatures might have been scarce then because of the drought. However, while I saw both meerkats and bat-eared foxes on several occasions in 1992, I saw neither on this visit — and I have yet to see a Cape fox anywhere!

My plan today was to head to Mata Mata, and having slept long and well, I made a reasonably early start. I had quite a few good sightings of birds en route, including my first-ever scalyfeathered finches, tiny, very active birds with distinctive handlebar moustaches.

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As I approached the 14th borehole, I encountered my first Kgalagadi traffic jam and of course it was lions — a pair lying up on the dune. I spotted bucky's red kombi in prime position and later learned that he'd been with these lions since early morning and had many photos of them drinking at the waterhole. My view was of the backside of the lioness, close but not ideal, and I eventually had a glimpse of the big male before the pair decided to move off over the dune. Then, just past where the borehole loop rejoins the main road, I had a perfect up close encounter with the other male in what turns out to be the pride that frequented the 14th borehole throughout my stay. As other cars arrived, he thought better of staying so close to the road and moved off across the riverbed.

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Bucky invited me to join him for lunch at Mata Mata and en route he pointed out a giant eagle owl well hidden in a large camelthorn. I also saw my first Kgalagadi giraffe, a real treat as I love giraffe and they had not yet been introduced in 1992. (Can anyone tell me just when the giraffe were re-introduced?) After bucky whipped up delicious cheese and wors omelettes, we had a walk around the camp looking for scops owls. On a later visit, I did manage to find one in the tree outside the shop (I'd no idea they were so tiny!), but on this day we had no luck, either with that tree or those near the camp gates, where there were also rumoured to be owls.

My return trip brought me a better view of the giant eagle owl, more giraffe, and a terrific close up view of a pale chanting goshawk.

sightings
in camp: gemsbok, eland
KK road: kori bustard
Lower dune road: nothing
Auob road (north): BBJ, springbok, forktailed drongo, crimsonbreasted shrike, crowned plover, pale chanting goshawk, whitebrowed sparrow weaver, ostrich, gemsbok, Namaqua sandgrouse, sociable weavers, jackal, wildebeest, scalyfeathered finch, martial eagle, ground squirrel, Cape sparrows, lions, rock kestrel, familiar chat, giraffe, hoopoe, giant eagle owl
Mata Mata: springbok, ostrich
Auob road (south): giant eagle owl, springbok, gemsbok, pale chanting goshawk, yellow mongoose, wildebeest, greybilled hornbill, giraffe, yellowbilled hornbill, LBJ (familiar chat?), crimsonbreasted shrike, black korhaan, jackal, ostrich
Lower dune road: nothing
KK road: jackal
in camp: juvenile pale chanting goshawk

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_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


Last edited by arks on Mon Jul 06, 2009 8:22 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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Unread postPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 2:45 pm 
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Location: Cambridge, MA (and home from home in Darling, WC)
Thanks dotty, wanderw, and anne-marie, glad you are enjoying the report!

anne-marie wrote:
It's good to travel solo... we can put all the thing on the other bed :wink:

:redface: :redface: But yes, it's a big help to have that extra space when I need to unpack everything to "re-organise" :roll:

What wasn't so great was the long schlep between chalet #4 (on the right in the photo below) and where my car was parked

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In retrospect, I should have done my reoganising at TR, where the car was much closer to the chalet!

_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


Last edited by arks on Sun Jul 05, 2009 9:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Sun Jan 06, 2008 4:09 pm 
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Thursday 13 September 2007

This morning I woke early and was out of camp on the dot of 06h30. I was rewarded when I reached Auchterlonie with my first-ever sighting of a brown hyena! It was moving away quite quickly up the side of the dunes, but paused long enough for me to get a good — if distant — look at it.

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Further south along the Auob I had a really nice, close sighting of a tawny eagle — unfortunately spoilt by the bakkie that raced past shortly after I'd stopped. I really don't understand people who lack the courtesy (not to mention the curiosity) to at least slow down before passing a stopped vehicle :roll: :evil:

I hadn't realised that the Auob road no longer follows the riverbed all the way to the confluence, which was both disappointing and disorienting, but the new dune road rewarded me with my first-ever sighting of whistling rats, and I spent quite some time watching these busy small critters. I'm not sure whether the sounds I heard were the rats "whistling" or just the sounds made by the sociable weavers that were foraging alongside the rats.

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Further along I had an excellent, close sighting of both a male and a female black korhaan and again was surprised by how many vehicles passed by without even slowing, thus missing out on the interesting sight of the male preening. I again wondered at the lack of curiosity, since whenever I see another vehicle stopped, I always slow to see what they're watching, and if I can't spot what's been sighted myself, I ask.

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I needed to go all the way to Twee Rivieren for several bits of business. First, after my experience on the RSA road from Ashkam, I wanted to investigate whether I could take the Botswana road on my trip south. I made a call to Elmarie at Avis in Upington, obtained the necessary form (they have the Avis forms at TR, where there used to be an Avis office), and all was easily arranged.

Second, I had seen and photographed a woman out of her car at the lion sighting the day before and wondered whether anyone "in authority" would be interested. The security police based at TR most definitely were, had a look at my pix, noted the vehicle's number plate, and traced the vehicle's present location in their computer records. I made a sworn statement, which was written down for me to sign, and that, plus the number plate, was all that was needed. Inspector Jacobs and Sergeant Monyamane assured me that this visitor would pay the applicable fine before leaving the park.

I was very impressed by this simple and effective KTP system of enforcing the park rules. First, all visitors — or rather, all drivers — are required to read and sign the list of SANParks regulations printed on the back of the KTP entry permit. Further, the TR security police encourage the help of the public in enforcing these rules and welcome documented reports of any violations. Speeding is of course a far too common violation that is hard (even impossible) to document, but other common violations, such as protruding from a vehicle, feeding animals and birds, or driving off the road, are often easy to document with photographs. What's most important is to note the vehicle's number plate — either a clear photo or just write it down; both is even better — and to be willing to also take the time to make a sworn statement. I applaud the efforts of Inspector Jacobs, Sergeant Monyamane, and Constable Mothupi, whom I met on a later occasion!! :clap: :clap:

Heading back towards KK on the Auob dune road, I was told that cheetah had been seen at Huomoed, but they were long gone by the time I arrived. However, a bit farther along, I was again rewarded with another sighting high on my wish list — ratel! The sighting was brief, as the pair raced across the riverbed, crossed the road, and disappeared up the western dunes. My memory is that they disappeared in a flash, so I was surprised when I later discovered that I had actually managed to get a few OK pix — one of the rare occassions when my still pix are better than my video!

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I stopped to have a look at the museum at a deserted Auchterlonie. This small museum is very interesting, and the whole area, with ruins of several other buildings, has an errie atmosphere (especially if you turn your back on the picnic area). I marvelled at what life must have been like for those who chose to live in such a remote, austere homestead. Pretty awesome, those pioneers!

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I was back at KielieKrankie by 14h00, looking forward to a lazy afternoon in camp, and to making a start on my packing. I was entertained by visits from several chats, an occassional antelope at the waterhole, and the ever-changing late afternoon light on the dunes. There is a timelessness about the KK view, yet it's also constantly changing — an experience quite impossible to capture in mere words (or in photos), but unforgettable!

My day ended with a scrumptious braai that included my first delectable Karoo lamb chops from the Skaapland butcherie — absolutely the best lamb that I've ever eaten! Many thanks to those forumites who so highly recommended Skaapland! It was a chilly evening, so I wrapped myself in a blanket and sat out on my deck, enjoying the stars, the firelight and the gecko chorus — and wrapped also in the (unseen at night :wink:) embrace of the KielieKrankie dunes.

sightings
in camp: gemsbok
KK road: nothing
Lower dune road: nothing
Auob road (south): gemsbok, brown hyena, springbok, jackal, steenbok, tawney eagle, fiscal shirke, marico flycatcher, yellow canary, forktailed drongo, blackheaded heron, Cape turtle dove, crow, ostrich, eland, kori bustard, sociable weaver, Burchell's sandgrouse, whistling rat, black korhaan,
Nossob road (south): yellow mongoose, kori bustard
Nossob road (north): blackbacked jackal
Auob road (north): ostrich, pale chanting goshawk, red hartebeest, springbok, ratel, anteating chat, gemsbok, blackheaded heron
in camp: gemsbok, familiar chat, steenbok

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_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


Last edited by arks on Sun Jul 05, 2009 10:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2008 12:52 pm 
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Location: At work longing for the outdoors!
Wow arks some really great sightings! And great report - you make me relive every moment and place... thanks!
I am SO happy for you but also very :mrgreen: specially about the Brown Hyena... was no 1 on my wishlist but again not to be :(

anne-marie wrote:
When I was here, there is a puff adder in chalet no 4 :shock:

:shock: It seems that no 4 is a favourite with the Puffadders.
One afternoon Willem came to our unit and said that he was going to catch a Puffadder at no 4 if we wanted to take pics… he knew that we were very excited about the snakes we saw (also the Cape Cobra he caught at no 2 earlier that day) and he also knew that we (and especially me :redface: ) loved taking pics of everything – all the lizards, plants etc

So off to # 4 we went and there Willem showed us this one

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He then caught it (with a bit of a struggle and me right behind & jumping all over as he couldn’t get hold of it at first & the snake kept dodging him :roll: ) and then he went and ‘dropped’ it quite a distance away...

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Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 4:06 am 
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Friday 14 September 2007

Today I was heading north to Nossob, but planned to linger and enjoy early morning at KK before the long drive north. It was a chilly morning, so I again wrapped up warmly to enjoy my coffee on the deck, where I was entertained by a variety of birds, including my first-ever pied barbet!

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I had asked Nikkas, the tourism assistant, about the resident African wildcat, but hadn't spotted her, although there were lots of small cat-like footprints in the sand below my deck. And I likely wouldn't have seen her at all if my neighbors in #3 (who were also my neighbors later at Nossob 8)) hadn't told me to look to the right of the small bush in front of the waterhole — and there she was! I later discovered, whilst reviewing my photos after I'd returned home, that (unnoticed by me) she was also clearly visible in my pix of a female steenbok approaching the waterhole. Now I know why the bokkie was a bit apprehensive and never did drink. While the AWC was very, very far away, this was my very first glimpse of one, so very exciting despite the distance!

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I had some excellent sightings along the lower dune road and had been told by people passing in the opposite direction that there was a pride of lions on a kill at the intersection with the Nossob road at Kij Kij. When I arrived the lions were both quite far away and fairly inactive — clearly full of eland — and since I had quite a long way still to go, I didn't linger very long. A few kilometers farther north, there were lots of jackals, again rather far from the road, enjoying the leavings from another kill. And a bit further along, I spotted a pair of whitebacked vultures with a chick — a special sighting, but again quite far from the road.

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From Melkvlei northwards, the atrocious condition of the road commanded my full attention, and consequently I had very few sightings. This was without a doubt the very worst stretch of road I have ever driven. It was even worse than the untarred stretch of the KTP approach road from Ashkam, and clearly IMNAAHO, caused by the many speeding luxury, high-performance SUVs and 4x4 bakkies, often towing heavy trailers, that raced past me in both directions, leaving me with a mouth, face and car full of dust. I soon learned to quickly close my windows (another reason why electric windows are essential!) whenever I saw a vehicle approaching, as few ever even slowed, just raced past me.

I had stayed at Nossob 15 years ago, but the camp is far larger now and I found it totally unrecognisable. I think that the "original" bungalows are what is now units 1-7, but they are very much altered and reconfigured and the whole camp layout also seemed ver different — absolutely nothing jogged my memory. Among other things, my memory is that the camp's gate was down a slope, closer to the riverbed — but then again, my memory may well be mixing it up with Mata Mata? Perhaps someone else who remembers Nossob from that far back can weigh in here?? — :yaya: restio? p@m? Peter Betts?

In any case, while I found the Nossob reception staff to be the very best I encountered, I honestly didn't care for the camp at all. I had unit #4 for these two nights, with a stoep that faces the bathroom window of #5a, so that rather than hearing geckos, I was hearing a toilet and shower. Unit #7, which I had on my return from Grootkolk, has a marginally better view, since the stoep faces the fence, but I was surprised that my neighbors in #6 had to park their bakkie in front, between the chalets and the fence, and would have parked under the tree in front of my stoep if I hadn't objected. I, being on the end, had chosen to park my car along the side of the unit. The parking for units 4 and 5 is between the two chalet buildings, so that rather than having a view towards the fence from the stoep and braai of #4, you have a view of two cars. I later parked my car in back of the unit, but my neighbors' car was still there, and their only other option was to park in front of their own stoep, which does face the fence.

One thing that I did like about unit #4 was the beautiful wall hanging in the bedroom. I asked whether it was for sale, or whether similar pieces could be found in the shop, but no one had any idea even who had made it. I'd definitely have bought the piece if I could have, and think it too bad that this sort of unusual and unique craft work isn't available in the shops. The "crafts" that are sold, mostly at Twee Rivieren, are so far as I could tell the usual mass-produced tat. I think that SANParks is missing an opportunity here, as unique San crafts would, I believe, be much more the sort of souvenir most Kgalagadi visitors would like to find. Apart from a few books, there was nothing on sale in the KTP shops that I'd want as a souvenir of my visit.

Perhaps I'd have felt differently about Nossob if I'd had extraordinary sightings in the area, but I didn't. The highly recommended Marie se draai loop was a huge disappointment for me, and while the road to the north did give me a nice lion sighting, my memorable KTP sightings were elsewhere.

sightings
in camp: jackal, pied barbet, marico flycatcher, steenbok, redeyed bulbul, gemsbok, Cape turtle dove, African wildcat
KK road: nothing
Lower dune road: steenbok, ostrich, gemsbok, kori bustard, eland, pale chanting goshawk, jackal, yellow mongoose, ?pied babbler?, ?kestrel?, lions on eland kill
Nossob road (north): jackal, whitebacked vultures w/chick, springbok, ostrich, pale chanting goshawk, gemsbok, wildebeest
in camp: ground squirrel, crimsonbreasted shrike, Cape glossy starling, jackal

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Image wall hanging in unit 4

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_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


Last edited by arks on Sun Jul 05, 2009 11:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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I'm doing this day's report in two parts, since the afternoon included considerable up close and personal time with two lions on an eland kill. But first, the morning ....


Saturday 15 September 2007 - part one - morning drive

I awoke earlier than usual this morning, so quite by chance was the first car waiting for the gate to open. My neighbors had told me of the lions on a kill near Kwang that they'd spent time with the previous afternoon, but I wanted to try my luck at Marie se draai. Clearly most were planning to head north for the lions, but unfortunately the Dutch couple right behind me also chose to head south. They were clearly very annoyed that I had been first out the gate and also heading south, so they stayed right on my tail, at speed, trying to force their way past — which really annoyed me, so I determined to not let them pass (which I admit in retrospect was perhaps a bit stupid :redface:) . However, I can't help but wonder at this obsession with being first out the gate — and such spoil-sport bad manners, should someone else just happen to be ahead of you? :roll: :twisted: :roll:

Sadly, because of these inconsiderate, selfish okes, I was denied what might have been a really brilliant ratel sighting. The ratel was very close to the road on a raised verge, but with not one but two cars approaching (the okes behind me revving their engine in annoyance), the animal beat a hasty retreat into the thicker bush. I was furious!!! These okes stayed right on my tail all the way to Marie se gat, where they stopped, although there was nothing much there, just a blackheaded heron and a couple of gemsbok. Rather than waste energy on telling these people just what I thought of them, I drove on all the way to Cheleka, where I cooled down a bit whilst watching a few entertaining jackals.

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There hadn't been much to see on this drive, apart from expansive scenery, with wonderfully coloured grasses, and the condition of the road made driving fairly unpleasant, so I headed back towards camp. Just before the southern turnoff to Marie se draai, I found a whistling rat and close by, a lizard (ID help anyone?) was sunning itself. On the loop itself, I spotted a distant lanner falcon, and at Rooikop, some Burchell's sandgrouse, also fairly distant.

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husk of a tsamma melon
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can anyone help ID this lizard?

Back in camp, I discovered that although it was past 10h30, my unit hadn't yet been serviced. I therefore took a stroll around camp, stopping at the hide for a bit and walking the nature trail, which probably isn't at its best at midday or at the end of winter. I also had no luck with spotting owls in the trees behind the shop and reception.

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Nossob waterhole seen from the hide
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the hide and waterhole seen from the road

When I returned to my chalet, nearly two hours later, it still showed no signs of having been tidied, since there was still trash in the bin and ashes in the braai. I decided to have a shower and a nap, but just as I was about to lie down, the housekeeper finally arrived. I asked her to just take away the trash, but she "insisted" on trying to do more, including cleaning my bathroom mirror and changing my towels — despite notices (posted right there in the bathroom!) that towels would not be changed unless requested, and despite my telling her that please, I do not need fresh towels. I finally got her to leave, but by then I was far too irritated to nap. I later reported this housekeeping contretemps, which the receptionist agreed should not have happened. There was obviously a bit of a problem with the training of and communication with the housekeeping staff, which I hope has been rectified by now.

sightings
Nossob road (south): gemsbok, ratel
Marie se draai loop: jackal, wildebeest, ?kestrel?, blackheaded heron, pale chanting goshawk, springbok, gemsbok
Nossob road (south): pale chanting goshawk, forktailed drongo, Cape turtle dove, ostrich, kori bustard, ?raptor?, gemsbok, martial eagle, jackal
Nossob road (north): wildebeest, jackal, Cape turtle dove, pale chanting goshawk, fiscal shrike, ?chat?, whistling rat, ?lizard?
Marie se draai loop: gemsbok, springbok, lanner falcon, wildebeest
Nossob road (north): Burchell's sandgrouse

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male Burchell's sandgrouse
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female Burchell's sandgrouse

_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


Last edited by arks on Mon Jul 06, 2009 8:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 6:39 pm 
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Saturday 15 September 2007 - part two - afternoon drive

For my afternoon drive, I headed north, hoping to see those reported lions. And shortly after Kwang, there they were, lazing under a bush right next to the road, and very full of the eland that was smack in the middle of the road. There were no other cars, and I was able to slowly pull up quite close to the two young males, who were obviously far too full of eland to be interested in me :wink: I spent quite a long time with them before another car arrived, but they weren't very active, although one of them moved off down the road a bit (away from me), and another car followed him.

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brotherly love :wink:
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too many cars ...
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I decided to drive a bit further north, going as far as Bedinkt, but again my sightings were few, so I returned to the lions about an hour later. By then quite a few vehicles had gathered, all larger and higher than my VW Polo, so they kindly allowed me to wiggle into s spot from where I could see. One person asked, as I moved a bit closer, "Aren't you afraid?" But again, those lions were far too full of eland to be interested in scrawny humans in tin cans! :roll: They didn't seem too interested in the eland either, but lions always attract a crowd.

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Then, just when I was beginning to think that I'd like to move on (only I'd no way to get past the crowd), the blonder of the two, whom I think were likely brothers, decided he was ready for a nibble. As you can see, his mate wasn't interested at all.

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Soon, both lions moved across the road, and the attendant vehicles again jockeyed for position, although it seemed that any "action" was over. As I was working my way around the eland, so that I could head back to camp, I did notice that a third lion was now approaching from the east, but I was a bit tired of the "traffic jam", so decided to keep on going. (And these lions might well still be there next morning, when I would be heading north to Grootkolk.)

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That evening I visited the Nossob hide, hoping that I'd be as lucky as my neighbors, who had seen a brown hyena the previous evening. No such luck this night, as while I stayed for over an hour, and the hide was packed, only gemsbok, jackals and springbok visited.

We also had jackals in camp each evening, despite the fact that the camp gates were being kept closed during the day as a deterrent. Certainly there are fewer jackals than in the past, and those that I saw were not aggressive. Rather, these patrolled hopefully, skulking tentatively and keeping their distance, and occasionally lying down whilst keeping a hopeful eye on the braai. I'm not certain how many jackals there might have been, as I only ever saw two at the same time.

sightings
Nossob road (north): wildebeest, springbok, pale chanting goshawk, bataleurs, gemsbok, crimsonbreasted shrike, whitebacked vulture, lions on eland kill, jackals, ostrich
Nossob road (south): wildebeest, gemsbok, pale chanting goshawk, lions on eland kill, jackal, whitebacked vulture, springbok, eland, secretary bird
in camp: Cape glossy starlings, jackals

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_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


Last edited by arks on Mon Jul 06, 2009 10:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 3:15 am 
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Sunday 16 September 2007 - part one - north to Grootkolk (morning drive)

I again awoke quite early, and was amused to note that cars were already lining up at the gate even before 06h00. However, I hadn't planned on an early start because I wanted to top up my petrol and check my oil and water before heading to the far north and the petrol station didn't open until 07h30. So I settled comfortably on my stoep with my coffee and my last piece of melktert, to enjoy the sunrise and the camp birds. Unfortunately (and I really should know better! :roll:), when I turned my back to take a few photos of the sunrise, those cheeky starlings started in on my melktert :( :evil:

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Heading north, I had my first close view of a blackchested snake eagle less than a kilometer from the gate. Farther along, I spotted juvenile bataleurs in trees on either side of the road, and the second one had some sort of kill. Looking closely at my pix, I first thought that it might be a meerkat — not the way I'd choose to see one, if indeed that's what it is, as this would then be my only glimpse of one, despite considerable careful searching — but now I think that it is a snake of some sort.

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Next, a pair of lions — a young male and a lioness — appeared close to the road on my right and I was able to drive parallel with them for a bit. Their bloody faces indicated that they had recently eaten, but this was quite a distance from the kill north of Kwang, so these must be from a different group of lions. They were quite relaxed, allowing me plenty of opportunity for photos and video, and walked along the road in front of me for a while before finally crossing over and moving off to my left. Nicest of all, I had them all to myself! 8)

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I spent some time at Kwang, enjoying watching the jackals at the waterhole (video but no still photos), which were soon ousted by a large group of wildebeest. Many wildebeest were frisking and gamboling and generally enjoying the bright spring morning, watched over by a few quite impressive bulls.

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At the eland kill north of Kwang, there was not a lion in sight. The kill had now been taken over by jackals, more than a dozen of them — as I approached, the eland was literally covered with jackals, on and inside the carcass. Watching them squabble as they competed over the prize was very entertaining — lots of yips and growling and snarling displays of seriously impressive teeth!

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Sightings were fewer after this astonishing first hour and a half, but I enjoyed the scenery as the river widened and the road cut right down the middle of the riverbed. There wasn't very much traffic this far north, but I learned later that the convoy of three official-looking Botswana vehicles that passed me heading south were relocating some "problem" lions. At Polentswa, I was rewarded with my first ever sighting of a pygmy falcon — and not just one, but two, in trees on either side of the road.

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pygmy falcons (both females) on opposite sides of the road at Polentswa

I was told (by a well-meaning couple who didn't realise that they were interrupting my far more exciting pygmy falcon sighting :roll:) that there was an impressive gathering of general game at Kannagauss. By the time I arrived there (after spending more time with the pygmy falcons), there were still quite a few springbok, wildebeest and gemsbok enjoying the shade and the water, which I understand is amongst the "sweetest" in the park.

I arrived at Grootkolk and settled in to tent #1, looking forward to spending a quiet hour or two just absorbing the atmosphere of this most magical place. Unfortunately, this was not to be, as the other three tents were occupied by a group that consisted of at least (I never did get a precise head count) four adults and four children all under the age of six. First, this is an extremely unsuitable camp for small children as it is unfenced and the units — unlike those at KielieKrankie and Urikaruus (and perhaps KTC, I've not been there) — are at ground level, so unless you watch your kids carefully, they could easily get away from the unit. As well, there really isn't anything at this camp to keep children occupied. This group had gathered in the communal kitchen area and their conversation, especially the voices of the children playing, was quite penetrating and definitely disturbing — not the peace and tranquility I'd expected to find in this remote wilderness camp. I asked them several times (once was definitely not enough) to please keep the noise level down, but their attitude was that there were more of them than me, so it was "their" camp and it was just my tough luck to be there when they were. :twisted: :roll: :twisted:

I don't think that these folks ever left the camp, and whilst they were there, there was almost NO activity at the camp's waterhole — which is normally, and was once again once this group left, amazingly active around the clock — nor was there much evidence of the camp's usually prolific birdlife. It was a very frustrating 24 hours and a very disappointing situation, especially given how far I'd travelled to get there (and at what cost). Fortunately, my remaining two days at Grootkolk were bliss, but that doesn't make up for those first 24 hours. :twisted:

The good news was that they would be leaving the next day. However, I did wonder how they accounted for being (at least) eight people when the rules for the wilderness camps clearly state that only two people are allowed per tent and that an extra child is absolutely not allowed?!? :roll: I am still awaiting an answer to my query from SANParks management, although our excellent new KTP guru has replied that such extra people are not and should not have been allowed. However, what's the camp's tourism assistant at a camp as remote as Grootkolk to do if a party shows up with extra people? There's really no place else for them to go unless there is time for the 4-5 hour drive back to Nossob. And a single tourism assistant is also no match for four determined adults. However, this is clearly a situation that should never have occurred.

As there was nothing I could do about this situation except grin (or grit my teeth — I was furious!) and bear it, I left for my afternoon drive somewhat earlier than I might otherwise have done.

sightings
in camp: Cape glossy starling, crow, Cape turtle dove, LBJs
Nossob road (north): blackchested snake eagle, juvenile bataleur, gemsbok, wildebeest, lions, springbok, jackal, crowned plover, Namaqua sandgrouse, pale chanting goshawk, martial eagle, pygmy falcon, tawny eagle, chat flycatcher, fiscal shrike
in camp: springbok, wildebeest, PCG, blackthroated canary, blackbreasted snake eagle (in flight), ?black skink?

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_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


Last edited by arks on Wed Jul 08, 2009 2:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2008 1:53 am 
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Sunday 16 September 2007 - part two - to Union's End and back (afternoon drive)

I don't quite know why I am so enamoured of Union's End, perhaps it is that I feel that it's the most remote place I've ever been? In 1992, it was an extremely long day trip from Nossob, but well worth it, and the memory has stayed vividly with me. I was very eager to see if I still found it compelling.

The first thing that impressed me about the drive there and back is that I never passed another vehicle — what a treat!! The place itself has changed little. It is still open and empty, although there is now a cute directional signpost and a very interesting informational kiosk. (In fact I'd love to have even more information about this former border post, but was pleased to learn a bit more than I'd known about it before now.)

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the road heading north ... and ...
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the end of the road looking south
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kiosk information ... I unfortunately didn't take a photo of the kiosk :redface:
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looking north along the Namibia fence
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The late afternoon light along the river was magical as I drove slowly south, the colours ever changing. At the Union's End picnic site, I spotted something white in a distant tree and upon further inspection, it proved to be the leucistic pale chanting goshawk I'd read about. Even at that distance, it was a fabulous and rare sighting!

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I reached camp just before gate closing time — although of course there are no gates at the wilderness camps — and just in time for a fiery sunset. As dusk settled, a lone wildebeest visited the waterhole, but due to the ongoing chatter from the communal kitchen, there was no further waterhole activity — which as it turns out, is extremely unusual for Grootkolk. One of the many delights of this camp is the almost nonstop activity as this waterhole, which resumed once this inconsiderate group finally left.

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sightings
Union's End road (north): springbok, pale chanting goshawk, ostrich, gemsbok, kori bustard, red hartebeest, wildebeest, lilacbreasted roller
Union's End road (south): springbok, pygmy falcon, leucistic PCG, wildebeest, ostrich, kori bustard
in camp: wildebeest, Namaqua sandgrouse

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_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


Last edited by arks on Wed Jul 08, 2009 8:19 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2008 9:02 pm 
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Monday 17 September 2007 - part one - to Union's End again (morning drive)

I was awake before dawn and already on my way as the sun rose over the Grootkolk entrance road. I headed north again, and again saw no other vehicle on my drive. The early morning light was magical!

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in this light, it looks like there's frost on those clumps of grass!
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And just north of the Union's End picnic spot, I was treated to a fabulous up-close sighting of the white (leucistic) pale chanting goshawk. Apart from constantly scanning the veld — and giving me a few piercing looks — the bird didn't move at all, but it was quite special to see it so close to.

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At Union's End waterhole I encountered a wildebeest roadblock, as a large group (50-60 at least) milled about crossing the road (and blocking it) to the waterhole. Since I was in no particularly hurry, I parked under a tree to watch the activity (I have video of this, but no still photos). Later, I spotted a watchful lanner falcon in a distant tree, but with no sign of any prey, the falcon soon left. I eventually also made my way past the wildebeest and continued on north, enjoying the scenery and the solitude.

At Union's End I positioned my car for some photos to "match" those I have from 1992. The signs on the South African side are gone now, but apart from that, it's quite unchanged. And the only sign of life was a lone sheep on the Namibian side of the fence.

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When I returned to Union's End waterhole an hour later, a few of the wildebeest were still about, and four patient gemsbok continued to wait at a distance on the opposite side of the road. As well, I again spotted a lanner falcon (or it might have been a rednecked falcon, it was definitely far too far away to tell :wink:) in a very distant treetop. And as the wildebeest departed, a small flock of Namaqua sandgrouse arrived.

Twenty minutes later, as I rounded a curve, I spotted an African wild cat walking atop the sandbank verge to my left. This was by far the closest sighting I'd ever had of an AWC, but unfortunately the cat soon went down the far side of the sandbank, and in my small and low sedan (and with the AWC being on the opposite side of the car and road from me), it was very hard to see. This is one of the very rare occasions when I felt at a disadvantage from not having a higher vehicle, but it was a special and thrilling sighting nonetheless!

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At Geinab waterhole, which I had thought was dry, I was very surprised to see three warthogs, which I understand are quite a rare sighting in Kgalagadi. Later, a pair visited the Grootkolk waterhole, so they can't be that unusual in this part of the park.

I arrived back in camp a bit after 10h30 and was dismayed — but somehow not surprised — to find that the large family group had not yet left, despite the fact that guests are supposed to depart by 09h00 at the latest. This inconsiderate lot did not depart until after 11h00, leaving poor Gert, the tourism assistant, with less than an hour to get three tents (as well as the communal kitchen) ready for the next guests :roll:

Once the camp was finally empty, I settled on my stoep to download photos and enjoy a few hours in camp. Soon there was a large group of wildebeest at the waterhole and an interesting variety of small birds in the trees on either side of my tent, as well as foraging in the grasses in front of it. In the distance, springbok were gathered in a shady copse, and a pair of warthogs attempted to join the wildebeest at the waterhole — those wildies are very possessive! Next, the Namaqua sandgrouse flew in, announcing their arrival with their distinctive "coq au vin" call — well, that's what it sounds like to me, and I found it quite amusing.

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sightings
in camp: springbok, chat flycatcher
Grootkolk road: pale chanting goshawk
Union's End road (north): springbok, wildebeest, greater kestrel, ostrich, gemsbok, lappetfaced vulture, lilacbreasted roller, whitebacked vulture (on nest), leucistic pale chanting goshawk, lanner falcon
Union's End road (south): springbok, Namaqua sandgrouse, crowned plover, wildebeest, gemsbok, lanner falcon, pale chanting goshawk, Cape glossy starlings, African wildcat, kori bustard, warthog, forktailed drongo
Grootkolk road: pale chanting goshawk
in camp: wildebeest, springbok, warthog, Namaqua sandgrouse, southern greyheaded sparrow, Cape turtle dove, forktailed drongo, marico flycatcher, jackal, blackthroated canary, sociable weaver

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distant lanner falcon at Union's End waterhole
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even more distant lanner (or possibly rednecked?) falcon
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_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


Last edited by arks on Wed Jul 08, 2009 8:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2008 3:06 am 
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Location: Cambridge, MA (and home from home in Darling, WC)
Monday 17 September 2007 - part two - afternoon drive south from Grootkolk

My new neighbors in tent #2 were a Swiss couple, Evi and Joggie (JJ), who has been camping on the Botswana side of the park and were stopping at Grootkolk for a night of (relative) luxury :wink: We chatted a bit about our interesting recent sightings, and although I told them how much I'd enjoyed the drive up to Union's End, they decided to go south and to perhaps drive a bit of one of the 4x4 roads that they'd not been on. I also planned to drive south, but left a bit later than they did and our paths never crossed, so they unfortunately missed my stellar owl sighting — but I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.

As I headed south, I first spotted another pygmy falcon, and some way after Kannagauss, stopped to watch an interesting altercation between some crows and three kestrels. Several of the birds dispersed shortly after I arrived, but one crow remained, harassing a rather impervious greater kestrel until eventually, after a prolonged and noisy harangue, the kestrel drove the crow off and assumed the highest branches of the tree.

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Only a few metres farther along, I came upon an astonishing sight — a giant eagle owl in a thorn tree enjoying a feast! The owl was very close to the road and was clearly going nowhere (so long as he wasn't unduly disturbed), nor was I. I turned my car around so that I was on the side facing the owl, which also gave me a clearer view, and then I simply sat and watched, alternating between shooting video and still photos, and much of the time just watching, as the owl devoured a pale chanting goshawk.

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I stayed with this amazing sighting as long as possible, and I don't recall any other vehicles passing (which doesn't mean there weren't any, only that I was so mesmerised that I don't now remember, and obviously any that did pass weren't interested enough to linger!) Yes, lions are nice, but this, even tho I hadn't seen the kill, was a truly extraordinary and unforgettable experience — one of my most memorable ever!!

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Being so close, I was very aware of just how large these owls are and how powerful, and how very dexterous their fearsome talons and beak are. This is a truly awesome bird!! The owl was very aware of my presence, but not particularly bothered — clearly I was no threat! The bird's alertness was also very interesting as it was clearly hearing things that I could not hear, so whilst I was no threat, the owl was conscious of other things that might be.

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As I reluctantly headed back towards camp, the greater kestrel was still in the same tree — perhaps these birds are territorial? And at Kannagauss I stopped briefly to watch a group of gemsbok, with a single youngster, which made me wonder if perhaps he was the only survivor of the previous year's births?

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Back in camp, still very excited, I told Evi and Joggie what they had missed. They had seen only a little general game on their drive, although the drive itself was interesting and scenic. A bit later, as I was pottering on my stoep, Evi alerted me to a distant dark shape approaching the waterhole — a brown hyena!! My few still photos are of very poor quality; I find that at dusk, video does lots better, so I mostly stuck to that!

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And as I was videoing the hyena, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. An African wild cat was crossing in front of my tent and heading straight for tent #2 — clearly attracted by the scent of the bacon that Joggie was frying. Again, my photos are of dreadful quality, but they are a memento of a most memorable occasion (and my video is a bit better :wink:). The brown hyena soon moved on, but the little cat stuck around hopefully all evening, which is why we named her Bacon.

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Eve and Joggie invited me to join them for dinner — a delicious Swiss speciality featuring macaroni, cheese, potatoes and the tantalisingly fragrant bacon in a creamy sauce. The little cat never gave up hope and even jumped up onto the wall for a split second a couple of times (which I never saw as I had my back to this action). Most of the time she sat primly with her tail wrapped around her feet, watching and waiting, but doomed to disappointment. The three of us spent a most pleasant evening exchanging tales. Evi and Joggie have travelled extensively in southern Africa, and Evi has also done some work with the Kalahari Meerkat Project. Have a look at her excellent website. There's nothing like good food, good wine and good company to complete a memorable day in the bush!!

However, this day's excitements weren't quite over for me, as at about 02h00, I heard a clatter on my stoep. I wasn't about to cringe in the dark wondering what was out there, so I got up and moved carefully to switch on the outside light. And there, poised on the wall over my sink, where I had deposited my unwashed plate, was Bacon. She froze momentarily, gave me a startled but penetrating look (as only a cat can! :wink:), and then disappeared.

sightings
Grootkolk road: springbok
Nossob road (south): pale chanting goshawk, ground squirrels, gemsbok, springbok, wildebeest, pygmy falcon, LBR, crow, greater kestrel, giant eagle owl
Nossob road (north): greater kestrel, PCG, gemsbok, springbok, wildebeest, jackal, ostrich
in camp: jackal, brown hyena, African wildcat

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_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


Last edited by arks on Thu Jul 09, 2009 10:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 3:50 am 
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Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2005 5:53 pm
Posts: 3789
Location: Cambridge, MA (and home from home in Darling, WC)
Tuesday 18 September 2007 - part one - a morning spent in camp

Amongst Jumbo's many excellent suggestions, was her advice to try to plan on spending a day in camp at the wilderness camps. I had managed an in-camp afternoon at KielieKrankie and very much enjoyed it, even though there was not much activity there. Just the ever-changing light on the dunes at KK made time in camp rewarding, and it is very relaxing just to sit out on the deck reading (or downloading photos :wink:) whilst absorbing the ambiance of the camp.

However, at Grootkolk, with the abundant birdlife (although I heard far more birds than I ever saw) and the almost nonstop activity at the waterhole, it was clear that time spent in camp would be rewarding in many ways. To start, I slept "late", waking only about 07h00, to discover kudu in the distance, making their way towards the waterhole. I made coffee and, wrapped in sweats and my fleece, for it was quite chilly, settled comfortably on my stoep to see what the morning would bring. It brought first three kudu bulls — one with magnificent horns and two younger ones — followed later by springbok and then red hartebeest, until finally the wildebeest took over, and the springbok and hartebeest retired to the shade of more distant trees.

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A bit later, I visited with Evi and Joggie over coffee, then bid them goodbye as they reluctantly departed, vowing to spend longer at Grootkolk next time! It was warming up, and with the wildebeest in charge at the waterhole, I decided that it was a good time to download some photos. Afterwards, with Gert's permission, I had a walk about the camp and a little bit into the veld, as I wanted to look at the plants and hoped to perhaps spot some insects and other small things, but I was unlucky on that score. However, it was very enjoyable just to wander and to view the camp from different angles.

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tents 1 & 2
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communal kitchen, tents 3 & 4
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tourism assistant's tent
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view of camp from approach road
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tents 3 & 4
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view from west of tent 4 looking east towards tent 1
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tents 2 & 1
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tent 1 with its wonderful trees

Now seems a good place to include a little information about the Grootkolk tents. These tents are quite a bit smaller than those at KielieKrankie or even the Urikaruus cabins, but they are perfectly comfortable, if a small bit cramped. There isn't much storage/closet space as the cabinet in the bedroom is used for the crockery. The stoep is walled with concrete "sandbags" and includes both the braai and the sink and gas rings, as well as a table and two chairs. The gas-powered fridge is inside in the bedroom area. I found the sound of the fridge disturbing and Gert showed me both how to turn it off and how to re-light the pilot. The long-handled "braai lighter" I'd bought was very useful for this!

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Another really useful item, which I'd bought in my local supermarket and brought with me, was my two cooler bags. I wasn't sure whether they would work, but they turned out to be great. The smaller one doubled as my daily cooler in the car, plus they are washable and fold flat, so are easily packed. I've only ever seen them here at the Stop and Shop in Massachusetts, but can recommend them highly. (I've just checked and found a website for these bags! 8))

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By the time I returned from my walkabout, the wildebeest — and everything else — had disappeared and the whole camp was very quiet. And it was getting quite hot, although as I didn't have a thermometer, I've no idea just how hot it was. But it was still shady on my stoep and while I wrote postcards and read, I also enjoyed the birds that visited "my" trees. One of the delights of tent #1 is that it has trees on both sides, but in fact all the Grootkolk tents are sited close to trees, which makes this a great camp for birding. Amongst my visitors was my first-ever pririt batis — indeed, apart from a far-too-brief-to-tick glimpse of a chinspot batis in KNP (which Ian Whyte IDed for me, but I really didn't have a proper view of it!), this was really my first-ever batis. What a lovely, delicately coloured little bird!

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photo taken by my sturdy wall :wink:
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sightings
in camp: kudu, springbok, Namaqua sandgrouse, chat flycatcher, doves, wildebeest, jackal, red hartebeest, pririt batis, blackchested snake eagle

_________________
RSA 2014
20-16 Oct Joburg
27-30 Oct Mapungubwe: Limpopo forest tented camp, Leokwe camp
31 Oct-1 Nov Pafuri River Camp
2-15 Nov KNP: Punda Maria, Sirheni, Olifants, Tamboti, Skukuza
16-22 Nov Cape Town
23 Nov-20 Jan Darling


Last edited by arks on Fri Jul 10, 2009 12:57 am, edited 1 time in total.

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