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Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park - September 2009


Morkel Erasmus
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Well, @@Game Warden was hinting that I should put some of my trip reports up here. Be patient, because I am still behind and updating reports from 2010 on my own blog, so this will be a painful process LOL :D

 

In September 2009, we decided to revisit the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park after a 14 year absence.

We visited for a couple of nights on a family overlanding trip back in 1995, and were so amazed at the arid beauty that we vowed to return every year - which we didn't do for some reason until 2009. Life just happened for our family, with many ups and downs which I won't go into, and this was my first time being able to venture into this arid land since leaving the nest as it were. I now had my own SUV, my own paycheck, and my own agenda, and decided it was time. :D

 

Since booking for KTP is a bit of an issue if you decide to book anything less than 11 months in advance, we had to make due with what we could. We opted for a mix of camping and chalet accomodation, and to explore all the main regions of the park on the South African side.

 

Itinerary:

2 nights: Twee Rivieren (camping)

2 nights: Kalahari Tented Camp (chalet)

2 nights: Nossob (camping)

1 night: Mata Mata (chalet)

1 night: Urikaruus Wilderness Camp (chalet)

 

First off, this trip was a planning and packing nightmare. We were 2 couples, had to bring all our food and also all our camping equipment as a good part of the trip would be spent camping. This is how we had to pack my Nissan X-trail that I was driving at the time. Any other packing configuration, with one item not in its place, resulted in something left on the ground with no space to put it! (That's moi on the left...)

 

0day1-packed.jpg

 

Secondly, this trip marked exactly the 9th month of my journey with a DSLR camera. I bought my first DSLR and lens kit in January of 2009. Many of the photos I will share here are poor in terms of composition, exposure and processing...but I just don't feel like reprocessing them for the purpose of a trip report ;).

 

DAY 1

 

After a long drive from Pretoria (we left at 3am) we arrived in Twee Rivieren around 14h00 and set up our camp. A short afternoon game drive was in order. At this time the road up the Nossob river was under reconstruction and we were only able to use the Auob road, although the Samevloeiing waterhole was accessible.

 

Some sights from our first afternoon drive...

 

Blue Wildebeest.

1day1-wildebeestportrait.jpg

 

Namaqua Sandgrouse

2day1-sandgrouse.jpg

 

Brants's Whistling Rat

3day1-whistlingrat.jpg

 

Gemsbok/Oryx (don't you just love these red dunes?)

4day1-gemsbokgrazing.jpg

 

Glorious Kalahari sunset

6day1-kalaharisunset.jpg

 

We had a proper "braai" (barbeque SA style) that night, falling asleep to the sounds of barking geckoes and barking dogs (from the communal land bordering Twee Rivieren)...

 

 

DAY 2

We were so eager to see the magical sights of the Kalahari that we were 2nd out of the gate.

 

8day2-camelthornsunrise.jpg

 

A moody Springbok sunrise

7day2-springboksilhouettes.jpg

 

Moments later we spotted something moving next to the road - Cheetah male!

He crossed in front of us, scent-marked a camelthorn tree and proceeded to the Botswana side down the Nossob river where we couldn't follow. :(

 

9day2-cheetahTR1.jpg

 

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After checking on a deserted Samevloeiing warterhole, we carried on over the dune road leading towards the Auob riverbed main route.

Some LBJs and small birds were spotted, as long as this BBJ (big brown jobbie) - a female ostrich and her boyfriend ;)

 

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The Crimson-breasted Shrike is one of my favourite birds of the area.

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Once in the Auob river, we came across a large herd of Springbok. The males were busy testing their strength...

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There was a large number of fawns in this herd - and they were busy with some sort of morning exercise (pracicing to outrun the legendary Kalahari cheetahs, perhaps?)...

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Up and down the riverbed they went - with no sign of any predator nearby. It was quite a spectacle.

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A little further on we came across our first sighting of the lovely Pygmy Falcon.

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Black-shouldered Kites were plentiful.

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Steenbok close to Auchterlonie

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We stopped at Auchterlonie picnic site for a comfort break. This is the old farmhouse (yes, people used to eke out a living here!) that now serves as a museum of how life was for these livestock farmers.

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On the way back to camp we found some Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters.

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A lone ranger

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A herd of Wildebeest was making their way towards one of the waterholes "in file"...

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They were joined by some Gemsbok (Oryx)...also feisty for battle!

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Check out this character!

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A clan of Meerkats rounded off an exciting morning.

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We had a late brunch in camp, swam, rested and explored the grounds a bit.

Our afternoon drive was also short, and with only the option of taking the dune road we ended up sitting for a while at Samevloeiing waterhole (which was quiet yet again) and driving a short loop into the dunes for sunset shots.

 

63-day-2---camelthorn-sunset-1.jpg64-day-2---camelthorn-sunset-2.jpg

 

A herd of Gemsbok was very accomodating!

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A desert like no other!

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We enjoyed our last braai in Twee Rivieren, and packed up a lot of the loose stuff that night so we could break down the tents easily early the next morning...

 

To be continued...

:)

Edited by Morkel Erasmus
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Only 11 weeks until we are there - you are making me excited already....

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Morkel, so good to see you posting a trip report here. Lovely images. More please. :P

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You've come a long way Morkel, and I think you probably feel like me when you look back on these early opportunities. I just wish I knew back then what I know now and had the kit I have now to make the best of those earlier sightings. Fun memories. I have a feeling that I may start to see some photos that I've critiqued in another life, always positively I hope. ;)

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Awesome photos, my desire to visit only gets stronger with each TR you giys write!
The Pygmy Falcon is also probably the most endearing bird of prey I've ever seen. :D

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@@Tdgraves thanks - 4 more weeks for me. Sadly we'll miss each other this time as we are only in for 8 nights this year, starting 6 December. Have a super trip! What's your itinerary?

 

@@Big_Dog - I hope I can finally push you over the KTP ledge ;)

 

@@Safaridude thank you sir.

 

@@twaffle no negative memories LOL, wish you would come back to that "former life" and participate again ;) - and yes I rue many early opportunities now!

 

@@Soukous thanks a lot!

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Morkel, I will have to go to the Kgalagadi with you one time!!!

Stunning ....... I do follow your images on the Facebook page too from the kgalagadi sightings ..... ;)

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@@Morkel Erasmus we overnight in joburg with friends after arriving on a sat, then to upington and another overnight. Then twee rivierien camp 2 nights, kieliekrankie 2 nights (only wilderness available for our dates), nossob 3 nights (I think) and 2 nights at mata mata river view (fancied the air con vs. kalahari tented, but I was tempted). Then upington overnight to joburg and home. Should be a good contrast to the kruger

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@@Morkel Erasmus thanks for posting this retrospective TR. We need more KTP reports its such a rich and rewarding park for both scenery and wildlife.

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Wow,what a start! I have to echo everyone's praise and requests for more. :)

 

The B&W gemsbok photo has such an energy to it.

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@@madaboutcheetah that would be a great trip! :)

 

@@Tdgraves sounds like you will have a great safari!

 

@@Treepol I agree, and I've got some more up my sleeve to "catch up on" here on ST...

 

@@Marks thanks mate...

 

Shall we continue???

 

DAY 3

 

We woke up, had a quick coffee and rusk and packed the tents away well before sunrise so we could be on the road early. Our route for the day would see us drive up the Auob river to Auchterlonie, cross the Lower Dune Road towards the Nossob riverbed (the road up there is open from that point northwards), head north to the Upper Dune Road at the Dikbaardskolk picnic site, cross from there towards the Auob again, and then proceed north to Mata-Mata to check in for the Kalahari Tented Camp which lies 5km south of the aforementioned rest camp.

 

A moody sunrise awaited us outside the gates...

71-day-3---camelthorn-sunrise.jpg

 

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It was quite cool on this spring morning, and it showed in the subdued animal activity. On the dune access road between Samevloeiing and the Auob river we came across some Northern Black Korhaans.

 

FEMALE

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MALE

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Another Brants' Whistling Rat

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The dunes were aglow with an eerie light that morning - a storm was building that just didn't want to arrive.

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The usuals were around...Meerkats and Springboks and Gemsboks

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Black-backed Jackal descending a red dune.

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Once we reached the Nossob river, we saw this Secretary Bird on the prowl.

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And a female Ostrich

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The section between Kij Kij and Dikbaardskolk in the Nossob river was very quiet on this day.

As we reached the Upper Dune Road we came across a breeding pair of Greater Kestrels with prey.

 

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Gemsbok family in the dunes.

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We reached the Auob river again, and close to Urikaruus Wilderness Camp there was a Spotted Hyaena den!

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Shortly after this we found a VERY relaxed African Wild Cat in a tree - I couldn't believe it as this was my first sighting in my life of this little feline.

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We also saw our first family of Giraffes.

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Around the next bend - 3 Cheetahs snoozing under a large camelthorn tree! It was still overcast and slightly gloomy.

 

141-day-3---cheetahs-lying.jpg

 

Apparently the 3 young males had been sleeping here all day - but our timing was good as it didn't take them long to go on the hunt!

 

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Further up the Auob river - a potential prey. But this Springbok had seen or smelled them and was snorting his alarms...

152-day-3---springbuck-prey.jpg

 

The hunt was over before it began...and we still had some 50km to drive to check in! The Cheetahs crossed the road behind us and moved up to the dunes, and we pushed off.

 

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154-day-3---cheetah-walking-11.jpg156-day-3---cheetah-walking-13.jpg

 

We checked in at Mata-Mata without further incident, and headed down to the Kalahari Tented Camp - what a lovely spot!

 

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163--day-3---KTC-sunset-HDR.jpg

 

We settled in for the night, had a lovely "braai" and watched the night envelop the dunes of the Kalahari...

 

 

...to be continued...

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super stuff @@Morkel Erasmus. as usual you've had brilliant fortune with your sightings.

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Excellent work!!!

It reminds me some good moments and sightings.

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Only spun through the first installment so far, but love the Pygmy Falcon. You clearly took to photography like a duck to water. Born to be....

 

And so glad you are posting reports. Always wanted to know more about your trips. Well done, Matt.... and even "welle"r done, Morkel.

Edited by pault
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To answer your question, yes I do love those red dunes.

And your whistling rat and hyena family. How exciting to have a first ever sighting--the wildcat. Your springbok are engaged in interesting activities, not just grazing!

 

The skies, the landscapes, all very beautiful.

 

Why did you chose the month of Sept?

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@@Soukous @@xelas @@Bush dog @@Treepol thanks!

@@pault my pleasure, hope I will have more time over December to post some more...

@@Atravelynn that's when we could get leave ;) - these days I prefer going over the summer months for animal activity (October through February).

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@@Morkel Erasmus : Great sightings and brilliant photos (as usual). Thanks for sharing this fabulous trip with us! Looking forward to seeing KTP at the end of April...

Edited by FlyTraveler
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The sky in the first photo of the approaching storm almost looks painted on. There's nothing like the sky in Africa!

 

Really nice wildcat encounter, too.

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@@FlyTraveler thanks - hope you have a great safari!

@@Marks thanks...

 

I came across some small video clips I posted back in those days on youtube! Exzcuse the quality - and sadly I don't have any others for this trip.

 

Springbok chaos:

 

Wildebeest migration:

 

Cheetah on 2nd morning:

 

 

DAY 4

 

We were all very tired for some reason - the long long drive to get there and the subsequent early mornings and the tiring drive over highly corrugated roads the previous day, so we decided to lie in and see what the camp would offer us in the morning - there is a waterhole and cheetah was spotted there a day earlier after all.

 

I was up earlier than the rest of our party, searching for photographic subjects around our accomodation units...being careful not to stroll too far - the grass was still long in places and big cats could be lurking about.

 

The local Yellow Mongooses (why is not "mongeese" ;)?) were quite cooperative, as was a very vocal Crimson-breasted Shrike.

 

164--day-4---mongoose-portrait.jpg

 

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We left mid morning to go and stock up on some supplies in Mata-Mata. The local Ground Squirrels were inquisitive...

 

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Another Yellow Mongoose

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We made a hearty brunch back in camp and relaxed, taking in the silence and solitude this desert brings to the soul.

 

On our afternoon drive, we saw a quirky-looking Springbok.

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Swallow-tailed Bee-Eaters

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Always in motion...

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Giraffe remains...

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Just love these ancient camelthorn skeletons...

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A black-backed Jackal was hunting for rodents - and found one (huge crop!)
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He succeeded numerous times...

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More scenery...

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We made our way to the Spotted Hyaena den again - two of the pups were out and about...

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The world's heaviest flying bird - Kori Bustard

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Lovely Lilac-breasted Roller:

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On the way back to camp we found some Bat-eared Foxes on the hunt.

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Another stunning sunset greeted us on the verandah of our tents.

202--day-4---KTC-sunset-HDR.jpg

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DAY 5

 

We were all packed for our departure and up early - we were leaving for the Nossob rest camp today, far up the Nossob riverbed and we'd have to drive some way to get there and set up our camp (we would be camping there). I did snap some lovely shots of the sunrise before we left the Kalahari Tented Camp though...

 

204--day-5---KTC-sunrise-1.jpg

 

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We said goodbye to the Barn Owl who stayed in the roof of our permanent tent...

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One last view of the tents overlooking the Auob riverbed...

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Spotted Thick-knee in front of our tent...

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The Mongooses also said their farewells to us.

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Our first antelope of the day...

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We hadn't gone far before we came across a couple of star-cross'd lovers!

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There were more lions laying way up on the dune. We eventually had to leave these two and be on our merry way.

 

Another Black-shouldered Kite.

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A lovely scene...

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Some ladies having a morning tea meeting:

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Just before we got onto the Upper Dune Road we saw our first Red Hartebeest of the trip.

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The rest of the drive to Nossob was uneventful as the heat began to set in.

Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk.

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We arrived in Nossob and set up our camp in scorching heat. The swimming pool provided welcome relief after lunch too.

For our afternoon drive we drove to Marie-se-gat waterhole and enjoyed sitting there watching some Jackals and birds come to drink. There was plenty of lion spoor about - but none to be seen!

 

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We spent the night trying to keep Jackals from our food - lots of them around in Nossob camp and they provide ample entertainment if you can stash away your stuff and watch other campers chase them off when they sneak into their camps!

 

...stay tuned for the next day...

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Didn't know that about the kori bustard...neat fact!

The mongoose has a very distinctly shaped pupil. I haven't noticed if that is common to all mongoose species, but it makes for a nice portrait.

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You had some really nice game viewing - and some fantastic sunrises and sunsets/. This is definitely one of my favorite parks I've never been to.

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