Jump to content

All creatures small and beautiful - Tswalu-Cape of Good Hope NP


Kitsafari
 Share

Recommended Posts

Tswalu was unexpected.

 

I had explored a Liuwa-Kafue combo for May but that didn't work out and I ended up with a Gona trip for Sept instead. I still had a slot I could travel inMay and I researched the elephant sanctuary in Chiangmai but doing a wildlife safari would be nigh impossible there, then turned my sights on Gobi desert but only a handful offer safaris to Mongolia and Travelling there looked dicey. My OH remarked it would be easier to just do a South African trip and it occurred to me that it wouldn't do any harm checking out Tswalu although I knew, searching in end=February for an available room would almost be nil.

 

So imagine my surprise when I saw a stretch of 5 available nights in mid-May.

 

Tswalu was calling me and I had to answer the call.

 

P1150332-1.JPG

Edited by Kitsafari
Link to comment
Share on other sites

So here I was at last, 2.5 months later.

 

I was unprepared for it.

 

You will have read all the facts about the Tswalu reserve by now thanks to the incredible TRs from @@Tdgraves and @@Alexander33. It was however @@bushmaniac's crazy good report that sent the bells ringing in my brain. Alarms alarms, another place I have to go.

 

So very quickly - the hard facts out of the way first.

 

The reserve with 100,000 hectares is the largest private reserve in south Africa. It sits in the Kalahari system but its landscape is more semi-arid. Owned by the South African Oppenheimer trust, the reserve was created only in the late 90s by Stephen Boler who bought 88,000 ha tracts of 35 farms to create a hunting area. As fate would have it, he met the Oppenheimers once and in them he found a kindred spirit of love for the Kalahari land, and gave them the first right of refusal for the reserve. When he died in 1998, The Oppenheimers bought it, ceased all hunting overnight and the rest is history.

 

P1150434-1.JPG

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tswalu is not a pure natural wildlife area having gone through farms and hunting. The animals were depleted or running scared into the Korannerberg mountain ranges. It had to be restocked when the reserve was turned into a wildlife conservancy. But with the end of hunting, wildlife is slowly returning and the flora is coming back onto its own.

 

What you have are endless vistas of red sand dunes, the Korannerberg dominating the skyline and the vast open space punctured by shrubs and bushes. What strikes me immediately is the silence. At any one time in the enormous reserve, there is no more than 8 to 10 game vehicles. On my last morning drive, I was the sole guest on a drive. That means animals are still largely unhabituated and are skittish at the sound of vehicles.

 

 

P1150266-1.JPG

 

an oryx busy with food while a red hartebeest peeks from behind the bush

 

P1150432-1.JPG

 

the beautiful mountains with ever changing hues

Edited by Kitsafari
Link to comment
Share on other sites

First off, let's put the horrible news behind me.

 

The wild dogs that gave such delight to the others who trod the paths before me are gone. A few weeks before I arrived, 19 of the pack of 20 dogs had died. At that time, only the alpha female was hanging on by a thread but I couldn't find out what happened to her. Canine distemper was the culprit. It is a slow painful agonising death but I did hope the dogs would have a swifter end. It boggles the mind how such a deadly disease can wipe out an entire family. Devastating news. (PS - another pack of wild dogs also died in Kruger of the same disease about the same time. really sad.)

 

Second, the prolonged drought is hurting the struggling wildlife. The rains were supposed to come in the early part of the year, but none came. The animals are being hammered. I saw a number of carcasses at waterholes or along the roads so there must be more inside the blocks. It rained for a day just before I arrived and hopefully that will be the start of more rains but the reserve is entering into the seasonal winter dry months.

 

P1150606.JPG

 

a giraffe carcass

Link to comment
Share on other sites

kittykat23uk

Oh no! How utterly devastating that an entire pack was wiped out! Kruger too?! Very worrying...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@Kitsafari so sorry to hear about the dogs. I hope that everything else made up for it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Atravelynn

You have our attention for the good and the bad.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@kittykat23uk @@Tdgraves it was pretty disheartening to hear that. Tswalu's conservation director Guy was on the same flight as I was to Capetown, and he mentioned that the camp is now sourcing sub adult wild dogs (excess in other SA reserves) to bring into the reserve. I think it's a good idea as it will absorb other reserves' surplus (I imagine they will cull the excesses if no one takes them).

 

The major issue though is how do you avoid a repeat of the spread of distemper? Tswalu in face had taken steps to protect the alpha dogs but they still succumbed to the disease (see : http://www.tswalu.com/media/blog-article/african-wild-dogs-at-tswalu).it is a hard problem to solve.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had asked for a particular Tswalu full-time ranger but he was not available. Instead, freelancing guide Adrian was assigned to take care of me. As mentioned in previous reports, Tswalu employs freelancing guides when the camp becomes busy. Adrian had worked at Tswalu in the early years of the reserve so he knew its history, though I did have a moment of concern if he would know the current sightings and where they are.

 

When we meet, I immediately mention packed breakfast so no time wasted to rush back for meals, and his eyes sparkle. He suggests full day trips and I am pleased with 2 full day drives as soon as possible, and he grins.

 

As others have referred to, a lot of guests do 2 or 3-night stay, and many do 3-hour drives. That doesn't give you much time to explore the reserve. The reserve is split into 2 sections - the smaller 20,000 ha eastern section where the lions are, and the 80,000 ha western and southern section that house Motse and Tarkuni. A row of fence separates the two, but the reserve is so huge you won't see it during most drives. Short stays or short drives mean you are always rushing through sightings.

 

I am never sure if a guide likes full day drives. More often than not, I think guides enjoy the down times between drives to earn a good rest. In this case, Adrian had been waiting for a reason to re-explore the entire reserve but couldn't due to daily short game drives.

 

So, our expectations match pretty well. I only found out, after I had left Tswalu, that he was a runner-up in Africa's 2015 list of Safari Guide of the Year. So I am very lucky I am in the hands of a extremely competent guide!

 

 

P1150414-1.JPG

 

Adrian tracking lion pug marks

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My to-see list is aardvark, pangolin, meerkats, aardwolf, brown/striped hyena, and antelopes I have yet to see - oryx and roans. No charismatic large species on my must-see list, since this is Kalahari; there are no elephants, no hippos, no spotted hyenas, no crocodiles in Tswalu.

 

A group of sables greet us as we arrive at the lodge. This group hangs around the lodge and we would see them when we leave in the morning, and return in the evening. It is good to see these spectacular antelopes again, after having seen them in Okavango 2 years ago. There are plenty of sables around in Tswalu and they seem pretty chilled. They are bigger than I remembered - and that seems to be trend for the animals in Tswalu. There are plenty of greater kudus as well near the lodge, stunning giant stags and surprised female kudus. It must be mating season!

 

P1150270-1.JPG

 

P1150271-1.JPG

 

P1150272-1.JPG

 

P1150274-1.JPG

 

P1150276-1-2.JPG

 

P1150277-1.JPG

 

P1150278-1.JPG

 

P1150281-1.JPG

 

P1150282-1.JPG

 

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My first game drive is short as I arrive via the afternoon flight from Fireblade Aviation (which is amazingly posh and comfortable). The Oppenheimer family owns the aviation company and planes and they fly on scheduled flights to Tswalu but also do private chartered flights.

 

The first day we have the typical two game drives in the morning and late afternoon. We return to the lodge just after 6pm.

 

P1150298-1-2.JPG

 

Yellow mongoose (i think)

 

P1150299-1.JPG

 

Blue wildebeest

 

P1150301-1.JPG

 

a fleeing oryx

 

P1150305-1.JPG

 

P1150307-1.JPG

 

Northern black korhaan - one of the rare times I see it on the ground posing for me. the rest of the times, I see them flying in the sky croaking loudly for the world to hear

 

P1150312-1.JPG

 

P1150316-1.JPG

 

 

 

 

P1150320-1.JPG

 

elands - often seen in a distance. they are skittish, so unlike their more relaxed counterparts in Kenya

 

P1150327-1.JPG

 

my first springbok! I was a slow-hand - never fast enough to capture their pronging. ;)

 

 

P1150337-1.JPG

 

 

 

P1150333-1.JPG

 

Koribustard - again the only time I see it on the ground. other times, it was flying away from us in the air. lovely jumbo birds.

 

P1150334-1-2.JPG

Edited by Kitsafari
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A drab brown bird sits atop of a tree, and it is singing like a carefree canary. The ant eating chat is endemic to Southern Africa. I see loads of them but none sang as beautifully as this one.

 

P1150323-1.JPG

 

P1150324-1.JPG

 

 

 

Edited by Kitsafari
Link to comment
Share on other sites

As the sun begins to set on my first evening in Tswalu, we stop to admire a beautiful greater kudu stag. he's milling around walking slowly, obviously watching another similarly stunning male kudu walking towards his patch. he arches his body, his head low and alert, while the other kudu continues his cautious walk towards him. a fight looms - will the mighty antlers meet and dust fly?

 

 

DSC06216-1.JPG

 

 

P1150347-1.JPG

 

P1150344-1.JPG

 

watching the encroaching rival

 

 

 

P1150349-1.JPG

 

 

 

 

 

DSC06214-1.JPG

 

DSC06215-1.JPG

 

 

P1150351-1.JPG

 

 

 

Not quite....

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

(PS - another pack of wild dogs also died in Kruger of the same disease about the same time. really sad.)

 

 

 

to be precise:

 

The entire Lower Sabie Pack, consisting of 13 dogs, died within 48 hours around last weekend.

 

https://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/news.php?id=56759

 

http://www.ofm.co.za/article/human-interest/186164/kruger-national-park-dealt-severe-blow-as-virus-wipes-out-wild-dog-pack

 

so sad, we've seen them half a dozen times during our previous three trips to Kruger and are booked to return to Lower Sabie for five nights in October

Edited by ice
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@ice thank you for the specifics! I had read it on FB but couldn't find it again.

 

Really depressing news especially since their overall numbers have been on the decline. There is a strong case for keeping feral or domesticated dogs away from the reserves, but sometimes it is the smaller canids that carry in the diseases; that's a harder problem to manage.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

SafariChick

@@Kitsafari happy to see your report. The photos with the red earth background are so pretty. So terribly sad to hear about the dogs, and I had also recently heard about the Kruger/Lower Sabie pack as well. Brent, one of the guides who does the twice daily Live Safari drives from Djuma and Arathusa just was talking about it on this morning's drive and mentioned that the Lower Sabie alpha female had been pregnant with 18 pups when she died :(

Edited by SafariChick
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@ice thank you for the specifics! I had read it on FB but couldn't find it again.

 

Really depressing news especially since their overall numbers have been on the decline. There is a strong case for keeping feral or domesticated dogs away from the reserves, but sometimes it is the smaller canids that carry in the diseases; that's a harder problem to manage.

 

Unfortunately this does not work for KNP, especially down in the south - the Lower Sabie Pack roamed as far as Crocodile Bridge and Malelane, so right to the southern borders

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@SafariChick oh no! that's terrible news.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@Kitsafari

Very sad news about the dogs.

I am very interested to hear how Tswalu was - we have also been attracted by the trip reports.

Lovely photos - the Sable in particular are beautiful.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Atravelynn

"When we meet, I immediately mention packed breakfast so no time wasted to rush back for meals, and his eyes sparkle." A good sign, but not surprising from a runner-up in Africa's 2015 list of Safari Guide of the Year. Adrian is a good recommendation. Thanks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Alexander33

@@Kitsafari

 

I can't believe that you've already gone and come back again. It seems just yesterday that we were talking about your possible travel plans. I remember meeting Adrian and thinking he was a very good guide.

 

I'm heartsickened to hear of the dogs' ignominous fate. The pups, when we were there in September, were so cute, and we had such great, high hopes for them.

 

I'm interested to hear how the lack of rain has affected things there. Despite the drought, it still looks greener than it did when we were there at the end of the dry season.

 

Looking very forward to hearing the rest.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@TonyQ thank you for following along!

 

@@Atravelynn definitely I can recommend Adrian. I'm not sure how it works at Tswalu though, since they may assign all the full-time rangers before bringing in the freelancers, especially since they have to pay for the latter.

 

@@Alexander33 i can't believe I've gone and come back too. wishing mightily I was back there again, especially now (sitting at my work desk in the quiet office with the keyboard clattering away and a colleague on the phone - i'd much rather listen to the birds singing and the meerkats shouting abuse at me. :D )

Link to comment
Share on other sites

madaboutcheetah

@@Kitsafari - awful news re the dogs ......... So with the drought - do they contract it from the carcass? or do they come in contact with livestock/domestic dogs?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@Kitsafari I'm glad that you enjoyed Tswalu Kalahari especially because I'll be staying there for 10days next year.I'm sure that the wild dogs will be reintroduced.I know that they are relatively cheap to restock because hunters have no interest in them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@@madaboutcheetah Tswalu isn't clear how they contracted it, but they have all but ruled out domestic dogs. The nearest settlements to Tswalu are quite a distance away and domestic dogs are unlikely to reach that area. though i think it'll be hard to rule out the wild dogs getting out of the reserve to go to the settlement, but there is a lot prey available for them in the reserve so they didn't need to go out.

Tswalu thinks it was the smaller canids like jackals and bat eared foxes, weakened by the drought, that contracted the disease and passed on to the dogs. The drought would have also weakened the dogs' immunity systems and made them more susceptible. Tswalu had in fact vaccinated the alpha dogs but they still died from the disease.

 

Hopefully when they introduce the new dogs they will be able to overcome the flaws in the vaccinations.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy