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SandyS An 'older' perspective on Kgalagadi-July 2012 Aug'12

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Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2012 9:22 am
Location: Cape Town

SandyS An 'older' perspective on Kgalagadi-July 2012 Aug'12

Unread post by SandyS » Sat Aug 11, 2012 12:22 pm

An ‘older’ perspective on Kgalagadi – July 2012 (ex Cape Town)

My SO and I have just returned from our 12th visit to the Kgalagadi – we were meant to go in May but SO unexpectedly required an operation and the only dates available were in July so we packed an assortment of beanies and hot water bottles and arrived in Twee Rivieren on Saturday 21st July (having negotiated the many roadworks/stopgo’s on the N7 and between Calvinia and Kenhardt!).

As we are approaching our 70’s (rather too fast for my liking) we immediately broke the first Forumite rule – we did not go for an afternoon drive!! but settled into our chalet and soaked up the sun and just relaxed. This is not a true trip report as our photos are just for our own enjoyment, so please refer to those stunning records of Sharifa and Duke, Morkel777, GavinW, WillieV and many more who have given us such pleasure with their wonderful photography. These are just observations and sightings and pure unadulterated happiness on our part!

First some confessions: not once were we at the gate at gate opening; we did not braai every night and sometimes we did not even go out! We did, however, sustain ourselves on whisky porridge and Magic Milk Coffee (thank you WendyA).

Our first trip up to Rooiputs yielded more game than I have ever seen on the lower Nossob road, springbok, gemsbok, wildebeest, jackals and an incredible number of kori bustards and secretary birds. Then to our delight we spotted the cheetah mom and youngsters peering at us through the scrub, just 4 heads curiously watching us, too far for good photos but cheetah nonetheless! A lovely roadblock of springbok were nibbling the new road (salt ?) and did not move so we just switched off and they totally surrounded us – wonderful feeling. This happened with a herd of gemsbok as well – what did they put in that new road?

Heard lions roaring that night and the next morning we set off for Nossob via the upper dune road. We don’t often see much on the link road leading to Houmoed but to our amazement we came across a small herd of Eland (about 12 animals) – we have never seen them so far south. The road up to Kamqua was s~h~o~c~k~i~n~g but we did spot hyenas of all sizes across the valley just before Kamfersboom, obviously a den halfway up the righthand side. We watched them moving around in the sun for a while then continued with the necessary breaks at Kamqua and Dikbaardskolk (upper dune road also very corrugated and we noted a particularly large hole to watch out for when we returned!).

The lions were out in force at Nossob and, thankfully, so was the grader. We could actually talk to each other the roads were so good! We drove north on this featherbed and spotted lions very close to the road just after Cubitje Quap and were told about more lions further north. We were lucky to see honey badgers three times on this trip, always just too far to photograph successfully, once followed by a jackal and all of them foraging and twisting their muscular bodies in that wonderfully powerful way.
On our way back to camp from Marie se draai that evening someone flicked his lights to warn us of a lioness walking down the sand road towards us, head held high. We watched delighted as she passed us and then noticed the sunset drive vehicle parked up ahead watching the male who was resting on the side of the road with his glorious mane catching the evening light. He turned his head and we could see that his mouth was injured – lovers’ tiff?

Have I mentioned how cold it was at night? SO smokes a pipe so ventures out early in the morning for a puff and notes the temperature – always below freezing and our one night at the Kalahari Tented Camp yielded -5. Say no more! However we didn’t see a cloud for 10 days and the days grew warmer and warmer.

Our 2nd day at Nossob saw us driving north at a respectable 8.45am only to meet two cheetah brothers heading towards the Nossob waterhole. We duly turned and followed them with a couple of other vehicles. When a group of Wildebeest headed towards them in single file, they just sat tight and watched them go by and then continued on their way. We went on to watch the sand grouse at Cubitje Quap and that afternoon spotted the cheetah just south of Nossob where they later made a kill, rather far away, but well seen through binoculars. An African Wild Cat gave us an entertaining performance from the Nossob hide that evening, trying to catch anything that flew over his head.

to be continued - with a happy sighting at Melkvlei!

Posts: 21
Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2012 9:22 am
Location: Cape Town

Re: An 'older' perspective on Kgalagadi - July 2012

Unread post by SandyS » Sun Aug 12, 2012 12:08 pm

Thanks to those who have read and commented - much appreciated!

to continue:

We then headed to Mata Mata where chalet no 5 welcomed us warmly. Despite the water being freezing, some very brave kids actually swam in the pool. I have great respect for those camping on these freezing nights; one young family had a 3-year-old, an 18 month-old and a baby and they took it all in their stride. (Actually we did once camp at Nossob in August ’96, ice on the car and all so been there, done that!) In fact, because the camps are so small in comparison to Kruger, you start recognizing everyone out on the roads and generally build up a nice friendly feeling.

Especially at a good sighting! I’m sure many can relate to this: travelling on the upper road at Dertiende Boorgat we spot someone searching the bushes. ‘Leopard’, they say, so we join in the search. ‘There it is, it’s going down the ridge’. By now 4 cars, two go one way, two the other to the loop road and when we meet we search again. Now 5 cars, no-one can spot it. We turn around and as we are pulling off I spot it coming down the ridge and going into a large tree with lots of fallen branches. We spot the tail hanging down and some movement, then nothing. We back up to tell our neighbours and they say they’ve seen it come out the tree and go up the ridge! SO has had enough of this backwards and forwards so we leave to photograph some Red Hartebeest. At Kamqua SO chats to someone in the loo queue and apparently the remaining cars shot up to the top road and the leopard obligingly crossed the road in front of them! All part of the fun.

We spent one night at the Kalahari Tented camp – a beautiful afternoon just watching the river bed and waterhole from our tent – a wonderful braai as the sun sank – springbok, gemsbok, ostriches and jackals roaming the open ground – did I mention it was cold! During the night I heard crunching – no, not any predators but a gemsbok tackling the sandbag side of our tent! As I unzipped a small window to see what the noise was all about, he raised his head and dashed off. When we had thawed out next morning it was back to Twee Rivieren for our last two nights.

We had already seen many vultures, snake eagles, bateleurs, tawny eagles, the white-faced owls in Nossob and Mata Mata and now added martial eagle and giant eagle owl. Of course the PCG’s were everywhere

We took a drive to Melkvlei on our last day in the park, hoping to see the cheetah but we got a large pride of lions instead! It looked like they had killed two young gemsbok, one on each side of the road. There were about 10 lions in all, keeping the 6-8 cars entertained as they crossed the road with their enormous stomachs and headed to a distant tree to sleep. This was just before Kij Kij, so we continued to Melkvlei where we had a happy sighting – Albert Bojane, the worker who lost his hand and now has a prosthesis. I chatted to him and wished him well and got a wonderful smile in return. After reading about the incredible help he got from Shaky Jakes and other forumites and also Jannie and the staff at Twee Rivieren, it was good to see him back at work.

Returning to Twee Rivieren, at the lion kill, the jackals were having a tail wagging feast on the carcass with the replete lions mainly sleeping! Other animals seen on our travels were Kudu, the tiniest baby giraffe drinking from his mom, yellow and slender mongoose, steenbok, many ground squirrels but no meerkats this time!

conclusion coming up soon - why we keep coming back!

Posts: 21
Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2012 9:22 am
Location: Cape Town

Re: An 'older' perspective on Kgalagadi - July 2012

Unread post by SandyS » Wed Aug 15, 2012 11:33 am

Thanks so much for all your comments - I have enjoyed writing this account and it makes me realise how much effort you all put into writing your wonderful Travel Tales, with photos nogal!

To conclude:

On our way home on the road from TR to Upington we noted a dead PCG in the road and were quite surprised, usually it’s bat-eared foxes! Then we came upon a PCG on some roadkill right in the road and he did not move. Luckily no oncoming traffic so we could swerve around him, otherwise there would have been another dead PCG! I’ve never seen this before.

We are already discussing the timing of our 13th trip to Kgalagadi – but first we have our 12th trip to Kruger in May 2013 (pensioner discount time of course!).

Why do we keep going back to Kgalagadi? Not having to worry about a big bull elephant around the next corner is one reason (we go to Kruger for that!) and lots has been said about the red sand, the dunes, the vistas. We have had many stunning sightings over the years but the real reason is that on our first trip in August ’94 we had the most amazing encounter with cheetah.

We were on Marie se draai late one afternoon and someone pointed out a cheetah family across the valley, on the Botswana side, which had come across to the SA side the previous evening. We waited, and the mom and her 4 youngsters slowly made their way towards us, marking the border post in the middle of the river bed, then coming up to the 3 parked cars whose passengers were anxiously watching the time as gate closing time was approaching! They roamed around and between the cars, the youngsters playing with each other, play-fighting, rolling in the sand and generally entertaining us, inspecting the cars closely and giving us endless photo opportunities, mom indulgently watching. Finally she went into the bushes and called her youngsters and they reluctantly joined her, one by one. I don’t think I breathed the entire time! Three cars started their engines simultaneously and we all flew back to Nossob – late! They let us in with a smile. Remember this was our first time – we were on such a high and I can still feel that high when I watch our video. That’s why we keep going back.

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