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michael-ibk

So, Kgalagadi Day 5!

 

It was a bitterly cold morning, we had used all the blankets available - temperatures were down to zero in the morning! As mentioned before I would be quite hesitant to use the Wilderness camps in winter, it must be terribly uncomfortable.

 

We had a very, very long drive today, from Mata Mata to Gharagab, which is about an eight-hour drive. Almost 60 km down the Auob valley to Kamqua, then about 55 across the dunes to the Nossob valley, about 50 km North to Nossob camp, 132 km to Union´s End, and then another 32 km on a 4x4 road to Gharagab. We left early morning and finally arrived there about 17:00, with a short lunch and petrol breakt at Nossob and very few stops on the road.

 

Though we drove a bit faster than normally there still was time for birds on the way. :)

 

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Green Wood-Hoopoe

 

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Pearl-Spotted Owlet. Tiny - only 19 cm. I was very impressed that Dantes spotted it while going full speed (50 km/h).

 

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We said Good Bye to Mata Mata´s Giraffes:

 

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One male was in a romantic mood - which for Giraffes means sniffing the female´s urine. ;-)

 

She was not interested, however.

 

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Edited by michael-ibk
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michael-ibk

The Dune road was quiet - a few Gemsbok and Hartebeest, the odd Steenbok, some birds now and then.

 

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Many accidents happen on this road - often people stop just behind a dune if they see something, sometimes on the other side of the road, and then it´s *BANG* - rear-end collission. Dantes was quite careful here.

 

He told us that the Vaalpan waterhole often has Black-Necked Herons, another unusual bird for this area, and right, there it was:

 

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Greater Kestrels like the dunes, and here we had our best sighting of them:

 

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michael-ibk

We had our lunch at Nossob Camp, in the company of an incredibly noisy Burchell´s Starling:

 

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I had often read that it´s easy to see Yellow Mongoose in the Kgalagadi camps, and had been a bit disappointed that none had shown up so far. No need to worry - Nossob has a resident couple, and they have lost all fear of humans:

 

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Fun little guys to take photos of!

 

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(Just ´d like to point out that we did not feed them - but many people do apparently.)

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michael-ibk

It was already past noon when we left camp. The road up here in the Nossob valley had been very quiet, it was quite hot again, and so I did not expect to see much on the way North. But just five minutes after leaving camp we saw another car parking at the road, looking to the left. So I looked to the left as well, and tried to find what could be there in the distance. But Dantes politely pointed out that I needed to look much closer, and only then I realized what was looking at me from less than 10 metres away:

 

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:) Finally a close lion sighting! This young lad was resting just right next to the road - and it was a good thing he was a bit curious, because if the lions lie down here in the grass they are absolutely invisible.

 

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A beautiful young fellow, and he gave us some good snarling and yawning.

 

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After a few minutes he retreated farther into the shade where a female lion was already sleeping, so we left them.

 

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michael-ibk

We took a look at all the waterholes but mostly "only" the regulars were there. I was quite happy, however, to get a reasonably close shot of a Shaft-Tailed Whydah, a very beautiful small bird.

 

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We saw several Bateleurs, they seem to like this area.

 

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Though I am not too fond of Snakes they do fascinate me so I was hoping to see one, maybe a Cape Cobra or a Puff Adder. Dantes told me not to get my hopes up too much, they are not so common to see at this time of the year. But suddenly he stopped and reversed a bit - and there it was:

 

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A Mole Snake (IIRC).

 

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It did not enjoy our attention to it, and disappeared down into the ground.

 

I was looking at a Hoopoe close to the road when suddenly two very interesting animals were running by in the background:

 

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Two Cheetahs! We tried to get closer to them, but they were very shy and ran off into the shrubbery.

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michael-ibk

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This is a Black-Chested Snake Eagle. Normally a very common raptor in the Kgalagadi, but we had seen none so far, which Dantes had told us was weird. This one made up for the lack of Snake Eagles and gave us a good show.

 

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The Nossob Valley here up North was quite different from the South and also the Auob, much broader (which resulted in animals often being farther away) and definitely much drier.

 

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Sometimes something grows a bit wrong. :)

 

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Only here in this area one can see Kudu (if lucky, not a given), and indeed we saw some in the distance:

 

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michael-ibk

And then, the sighting of the day! Just as we went around a bend something was lying there, straight on the road. A spotted cat! :) Cheetah? No:

 

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A young Leopard! :)

 

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He seemed unsure about what to do at first, stay, run or hide, and so he fortunately stopped long enough for a few quick shots.

 

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Then he retreated into the high grass ...

 

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... but still was curious enough to stick his head out and watch us.

 

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Then it was heads down, and it was like he had never been there at all. If a Leopard does not want to be seen in this environment it is impossible to see it.

 

We were very, very happy with this afternoon - Lion, Cheetah and Leopard! :)

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Finally we came to the last turn-off of this very long drive:

 

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Unlike the main roads, this is for camp residents only, and here you need 4x4 vehicles.

 

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A very beautiful, serene area, totally quiet and peaceful and again quite different from everything else we had seen so far here in the Kgalagadi, more savannah-like.

 

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Red Hartebeest like this area.

 

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And then we were finally there - Gharagab, coming up in the next chapter. :)

 

 

 

 

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SafariChick
Pictures! We need to see Springbok-Dusty!

 

 

@@michael-ibk we've never managed to capture a photo of Springbok-Dusty 'pronking'! Not sure I have the photo skills to do that either - might need you to make a visit to get that photo of him!

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SafariChick

You sure had a great drive from one place to another, you saw so much along the way - wonderful birds - loved the photos of the Black-Cheasted Snake Eagle! and the yellow mongoose, cheetah and then the leopard - wow!

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That was one long drive indeed, with absolutely fabulous sightings! The lure of Kgalagadi is only increased by your excellent photos! They bring warmth into this cold and grey Saturday morning. If only there would be a cake with a coffee ....

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Absolutely wonderful photos and sightings again, @@michael-ibk, of both birds and mammals ( ah, I forget the reptiles)! We do have the coffee and cake here @@xelas?, but also the grey Saturday morning, so these tales brighten the day

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Uh_oh busted

This is a wonderful trip report. I'm loving seeing parts of SA we haven't explored. Your photos are amazing, the stories are great.

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@@michael-ibk

A long drive (made easier by someone else doing the driving!) but a wonderful one with great sightings.

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Alexander33

Awesome afternoon drive -- a cat trifecta. That male shaft-tailed whydah is a spectacular bird -- those tale feathers provide a convincing reason to visit during their breeding season.

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I've been reading along, late as usual, and thinking about all the compliments I wanted to give you at the end, when something about the expression on the slender mongoose's face just stopped me dead in my tracks. You have many incredible photos (I love the klippspringer! And your birds are really unbelievably fine and detailed) and some wonderful stories too (I'm really feeling the need to try to go to Augrabies sometime now). And the slender mongoose picture probably isn't your most technically perfect. But something about catching such a sincere expression on such a quick and shy animal really awed me, and I wanted to share that with you. Thanks.

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michael-ibk

You sure had a great drive from one place to another, you saw so much along the way - wonderful birds - loved the photos of the Black-Cheasted Snake Eagle! and the yellow mongoose, cheetah and then the leopard - wow!

 

Thanks, @@SafariChick - it was a very long drive, but certainly one of our best in the Kalahari.

 

That was one long drive indeed, with absolutely fabulous sightings! The lure of Kgalagadi is only increased by your excellent photos! They bring warmth into this cold and grey Saturday morning. If only there would be a cake with a coffee ....

 

Well @@xelas , soon there will be no more cold and grey mornings but only heat, humidity and traffic chaos. ;)

 

 

Absolutely wonderful photos and sightings again, @@michael-ibk, of both birds and mammals ( ah, I forget the reptiles)! We do have the coffee and cake here @@xelas, but also the grey Saturday morning, so these tales brighten the day

 

Thanks, @@PeterHG , a very nice compliment. Some more reptiles coming up.

 

This is a wonderful trip report. I'm loving seeing parts of SA we haven't explored. Your photos are amazing, the stories are great.

 

Glad you like it, @@Uh_oh busted , there really are so many different facets to South Africa, aren´t there? (Really love your nickname btw.)

 

@@michael-ibk

A long drive (made easier by someone else doing the driving!) but a wonderful one with great sightings.

 

Thanks, @@TonyQ , it certainly was not as exhausting just sitting in the car and letting Dantes do all the work. ;)

 

 

Awesome afternoon drive -- a cat trifecta. That male shaft-tailed whydah is a spectacular bird -- those tale feathers provide a convincing reason to visit during their breeding season.

 

Thanks, @@Alexander33 , now I have learned a new word - "trifecta" - I like it. :)

 

I've been reading along, late as usual, and thinking about all the compliments I wanted to give you at the end, when something about the expression on the slender mongoose's face just stopped me dead in my tracks. You have many incredible photos (I love the klippspringer! And your birds are really unbelievably fine and detailed) and some wonderful stories too (I'm really feeling the need to try to go to Augrabies sometime now). And the slender mongoose picture probably isn't your most technically perfect. But something about catching such a sincere expression on such a quick and shy animal really awed me, and I wanted to share that with you. Thanks.

 

Thank you, @@hannahcat , I like that shot myself a lot. The Mongoose were most entertaining subjects, great fun to watch. I have many binned photos of them - they move fast.

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michael-ibk

On to Kgalagadi Day 6:

 

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We spent two nights in Gharagab, and this certainly was my most favourite camp. It´s one of the most remote places in the park - nothing but Kalahari all around for many, many miles, with no other human soul nearby. This is a Wilderness camp, only four chalets. We had the one most to the left (seen above in the photo), and it really felt like we were far, far out there.

 

The view from the deck:

 

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The Chalets

 

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Inside it was comfortable enough, and a nice breeze flows through - not that this was needed, it still was quite cool at night especially, but fortunately not as bitterly cold as the days before in KTC.

 

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The shower.

 

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I had to save this litte guy, he was trapped, unable to get out on the smooth surface.

 

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The Kitchen block:

 

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michael-ibk

Since we enjoyed the camp so much we stayed there more than at our other accommodations. We didn´t drive out again after arriving, and on the next, our full day there we only did the "morning" drive ( until past 14:00.) It´s quite some way to the main road (45 minutes at least), and the dune road to and from camp is much quieter than the river valleys anyway, so it was just as well staying put.

 

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The camps has its own waterhole (behind the tree in the first picture), always busy with birds. Other than our feathered friends it was very quiet, however. A Jackal now and then, rarely a Springbok, that was pretty much it. I hoped for Brown Hyena or Caracal and stayed out on the deck quite late both evenings (and fell asleep a couple of times), but without success. A Wild Cat once, that was it. On the first night Dantes (who is a light sleeper) alerted me at 04:00 to the presence of two lions. I ran out and just saw them leaving again.

 

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As Dantes explained to us, the area was full with Kalahari melons and other juicy stuff, so there was little need for the animals to wander to the waterhole - they all could get lots of fluid most easily anywhere, and none of the animals here are really water-dependent anyway.

 

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So no spectacular sightings here at all, but it did not matter - for me this fantastically beautiful and peaceful place was spectacular enough on its own.

 

Sociable Weavers always kept us company:

 

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A male Pririt Batis

 

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Kalahari Scrub Robin

 

Red Hartebeest were often around, but they did not come to drink one single time.

 

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michael-ibk

A new dawn:

 

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We did not leave already at 07:00 next morning but still waited a bit at the waterhole - which also gave us time to enjoy a very leisurely breakfast. Nothing showed up, though, and so we embarked on our day´s journey. We did a loop to the main road, then up North again, and then back to camp. Not a lot of options anyway, the road to and from camp is a one-way one.

 

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Nothing much seems to live out here.

 

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But on a second look one will always find smaller stuff, like the shy Steenboks.

 

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A Goshawk was posing very nicely for us.

 

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As did this White-Backed Mousebird

 

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A Jackal was quite curious about us:

 

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michael-ibk

Speaking of small stuff, we devoted a lot of the morning time to very small creatures:

 

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This is a Brant´s Whistling Rat. Tiny as they may appear to be, they are actually giants in their importance for the food chain of the Kalahari. They are omnipresent in many areas, their biomass must be incredible. And so they are the reason for the abundance of birds of prey and the good number of smaller predators in the park.

 

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The ground often looks like Swiss Cheese in the Kalahari. Their burrow system (or warren) has numerous entrances, about 50 on average, and may be spread over an area of 50 m², with tunnels extending to one metre below the surface.

 

Trying to get pictures of them was not too easy - not only are they tiny but quite nervous too, they only stick out their heads for seconds and then disappear again. I remember a computer game from childhood, it was called "Caddyshack" or something like that, there were a lot of holes, some moles sticking their head out very quickly, and you had to hit them with a hammer. (Don´t worry, I don´t enjoy doing that in a non-virtual way.) Taking photos of the Whistling Rats felt very similar. :)

 

"Now I´m here, haha, catch me."

 

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"And now I´m not, nyah nyah nyah nyah nyaaaaaah nyah." :P

 

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With time, they relaxed a bit in our presence, and used some of the tunnel entrances closer to the car.

 

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The name "Whistling" rat is quite fitting, they do use a high-pitched piercing whistle sound which serves as a warning of danger.

 

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Once warned, they do retreat immediately underground. Unless with snakes - apparently they do realize that their enemies just follow them down, and so they prefer to confront them in the open.

 

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The Rat is exclusively herbivorous. It forages by gnawing off twigs and other stuff and drags it back to the vicinity of their entrances where the food is enjoyed in (relative) peace.

 

 

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As you can see, obviously they have no problem finding food right now - some of them were quite obese (maybe on safari with Dantes). :)

 

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michael-ibk

It was almost 09:30 when we were finally out of the dunes and back in the Nossob valley. And it turned out we had to be very, very patient for a loooooong time because it was extremely quiet.

 

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We had hoped to find the Cheetahs again (this was where we had seen the two males yesterday) or maybe even the Leopard again. Dantes also knew of an active (Spotted) Hyena Den in the area, and we had seen lots of Lion Tracks yesterday. But we found - nothing. It was a really slow drive, even Gemsbok & Co did not offer too much in the way of photographic options, and no new birds were found. So we did not take much more than ten photos for two hours.

 

But we were compensated - finally, at about 11:30, we found - love! :)

 

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@@michael-ibk

 

It looks like you had outstanding sightings, even for Kgalagadi standards. You did well with cheetahs so far. The two males you saw on the Nossob side… where did you see them? I saw two pairs of two male cheetah coalition on the Nossob side. I have a sneaking suspicion the ones you saw are the ones I saw at Polentswa hunting.

 

Also, I love the yellow mongoose sequence.

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michael-ibk

We stayed with the amorous couple for almost two hours.

 

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And for Lion midday-standards, they really did their very best to entertain us, often looking straight at us. Obviously the lady was not comfortable with us peepers.

 

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The male was very impressive - a proper regal Kalahari specimen. Dantes said that this one was to be watched - he did not like the look on his face when he was giving us the eye. I disagreed - I thought he had an almost gentle expression at times.

 

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Lighting was very tricky, however, they mostly stayed in the shade, and the background was blazingly bright. All kind of exposure compensations and meterings were tried, but in the end, a sighting mid-day will always be a mid-day sighting and cannot be magically changed into a golden hour one.

 

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michael-ibk

The couple had quite the stamina - they were mating five times!

 

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In-between they took well-deserved naps, but it was never long until the male became "interested" again.

 

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One of the few moments when the lady lost her slightly bored expression. :)

 

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