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Our Kgalagadi trip report ….. a trip that nearly wasn’t!


Davesg
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We booked 6 nights for our first trip to the Kgalagadi towards the end of August. We were lucky to pick up cancellations a month ahead of time. This was to be our first visit to the South African side of the Park having had a brief visit to Mabuasehube in 2012. Normally Pippa and I camp when we go into the bush but we decided that for this trip we’d stay in the SanParks accommodation and survey camping facilities for future visits (I’m in a wheelchair and sandy campsites can be a problem). Nossob was a must in my book and the rest of the bookings revolved around availability there. So our bookings ended up as follows:

· Leave Cape Town 26 August and over-night at Kalahari Guest House;

· 27 and 28 August Kalahari Tented Camp

· 29 and 30 August Twee Rivieren;

· 31 August and 01 September Nossob

· 02 September Kgalagadi Lodge

· 03 September Blou Nartjie (Calvinia)

· 04 September Home

We set off from Cape Town at 6:00am on Friday 26 August. We’ve always loved the drive up north through Ceres, Clanwilliam, Calvinia and beyond. It was no different that day. The scenery was as beautiful as ever and the flowers were just starting to show themselves. Life was good!

Just after 10:00am and about 15kms beyond Nieuwoudtville disaster struck. I felt a loss of power and a few seconds after that the engine shut down. Even for a non-mechanically minded person like myself I knew we were in trouble. An inspection of the engine confirmed it ….. a strong smell of burning oil and no water in the expansion tank told the story. A cooked engine. Oops!!

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We were lucky to have cell phone reception (albeit patchy and weak) and I phoned the AA to arrange for transport back to Cape Town. After a couple phone calls they confirmed that a contractor from Calvinia would collect us and take us home. We waited and we waited and we waited some more. Finally the contractor arrived at about 3:00pm in a twin cabbed bakkie and a roll-on trailer. I had my misgivings …… the set-up didn’t look fit for purpose. I assumed though that he knew best.

After greetings and introductions we were told that we’d be taken on to Calvinia for a “rest and freshen-up” before heading back to Cape Town. I thanked him for his concern but pointed out that we’d already been “resting” for the past 5 hours while waiting for him and would much prefer to avoid travelling another 50kms further before heading back home again. He said that this had been the agreement with the AA consultant. I told him that this hadn’t been discussed with me by the AA and that I wasn’t prepared to waste time going on. To cut a long story a bit shorter, another hour was wasted trying to resolve the issue with the AA. Eventually it was decided that we’d be taken to Nieuwoudtville and another contractor would be found to meet us there and take us home. The trip to Nieuwoudtville confirmed my suspicions about the bakkie and trailer …… it started fishtailing at less than 50km/h. Fortunately the driver managed to control things but it was a frightening experience.

​The epitome of a grumpy old man!

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We spent another hour on the main street of Nieuwoudtville waiting for the AA to make alternative arrangements. It came as no surprise by this time that we were eventually told that a towing contractor from Klawer would only be able to collect us the next morning and that we’d have to sleep over that night. Pippa walked to a farm stall down the road from where we were parked to ask for some help to find a room. None were to be had. It was a very busy weekend for the locals with the flowers starting to bloom and all accommodation was booked out. The good folk there spent an hour phoning everyone they could think of to help and eventually found a place with a couple who had just finished renovating a room. They very kindly allowed us to stay. So 12 hours after leaving home the Calvinia contractor offloaded us (and the Land Rover) in the yard of our hosts.

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The silver lining out of all our frustrations and worries through the day was the fantastic response from fellow travelers and the Nieuwoudtville residents. I was amazed at the number of people who stopped to offer help and to make sure that we had water and food while we waited to be collected.

At 9:00am the next morning we were very relieved to see a proper rig arrive. The car was quickly winched onto the back of the truck and Pippa and I scrambled up into the cab with Sarel the driver. It was actually a very pleasant drive back to Cape Town and we were both really impressed with Sarel’s driving and courteousness to other road users. The trip home took about 5 hours.

Hope springs eternal and it wasn’t long after we had settled into our comfort zone at home that I suggested to Pippa that MAYBE things weren’t as bad as they looked and MAYBE the guys at the workshop would find no serious damage to the engine and MAYBE we could be on our way again by about lunchtime on Monday! We’d only have 3 nights in the Kgalagadi but that would surely be better than nothing? It was a long weekend waiting for the car to be collected and assessed!

Pics courtesy of Pippa and her cell phone!

To be continued.

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Monday morning arrived and the was car collected and taken to the workshop. An hour later our hopes of a reprieve were dashed …… no quick fix to that engine!

So …… fast forward 9 weeks and with a new sub-assembly installed in the Land Rover off we go!

SanParks were fantastic and in spite of very clear cancellation rules they still gave us a very generous refund of accommodation costs which we used to book again at the end of October. Once again we were lucky to benefit from late cancellations and in fact benefited by being able to get a night at Kieliekrankie. The new itinery as follows:

· 23 October Kalahari Guest House;

· 24 and 25 October Nossob;

· 26 October Kieliekrankie;

· 27 and 28 October Kalahari Tented Camp;

· 29 October Twee Rivieren

· 30 October Blou Nartjie (Calvinia)

· 31 October Home

The trip up north went smoothly although both Pippa and I were a bit anxious after our last attempt. For some illogical reason when we passed the point of breakdown we both felt a lot more relaxed! One problem that developed was the air conditioner in the car wasn’t working. We hadn’t noticed this while in the cooler weather driving up to Calvinia but as the day progressed and we got closer to Upington we became aware of the problem. With temperatures increasing rapidly (33°C) it soon became quite uncomfortable. Not a train smash though and something we could live with!

We arrived at Kalahari Guest House mid afternoon and settled in for the evening. We’d stayed there on a previous trip up to Botswana and were pleased to see that they had maintained their high standards. The Bushcamp tent was impeccably clean and tidy.

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We left the Bushcamp at about 8:00am and arrived at Twee Rivieren by 10:30. At last ….. very exciting to finally get there! Checking in didn’t take too long and after topping up with diesel and deflating our tyres we set off for Nossob. We started off fairly slowly hoping that we might be lucky enough to get an early sighting. It soon became apparent though that in the heat of the day the animals weren’t likely to be very active so we pushed on closer to the 50km/h speed limit and decided it would be better to get to Nossob in time to unpack and settle in there before going on an afternoon drive. There were of course still opportunities to stop along the way.

 

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In the afternoon we took a slow drive along Marie’s Loop. Some nice bird sightings and of course various buck. We both enjoyed the scenery and enjoyed the fact that views from the track were largely open and unimpeded. I always felt that one was in with a chance of a good sighting but no Lion or Cheetah that day! A quick stop at Rooikop waterhole where we saw a couple of Jackal before heading back to camp for a braai and early night.

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So day one was over and we looked forward to the rest of our time in the park.

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@@Davesg

 

Every so often a special person came and show us what the true spirit is! My hat off to you Dave and Pippa (but not to the Land Rover). Kgalagadi without A/C ... that would be a nightmare for me.

 

Excellent photos!

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Now that is persistence! Glad tou got there in the end and some wonderful photos to show for it.

Peter

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Day 2



We were up early and having heard that there had been some Lion sighted up near Kwang the previous morning we decided to go north. The road seemed a more corrugated and sandy than that to the south but certainly not as bad as I'd anticipated. We didn’t see anything major along the way so stopped for a while at Cubitje Quap waterhole hoping that something might show. A female Kudu pitched up for a drink. She seemed to me a bit under-nourished?



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After watching her for a while we carried on to Kwang. There were a few other cars parked there but still plenty of room for us to find parking in the shade and still have a decent view of the waterhole. No Lion of course but quite a few Wildebeest, a couple of Gemsbok and a Secretary Bird took turns drinking before wandering off again. We had coffee and rusks and waited for a while in the hope of something else showing up. The only things to do so were a couple more cars! J



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By 9:00am it was already starting to warm up and it didn’t look like our elusive Lion were going to arrive so we headed back to Nossob. Once again nothing major to see on the route back but we still enjoyed the drive and view of the countryside. I did start to worry a bit about the car though. It seemed to be lacking power when going through any thicker sand or up an incline and no real response in power when opening the throttle to maintain momentum. I didn’t feel any threat of getting stuck, just an unease due to lack of response. The temperature gauge was showing normal and no error messages had come up ….. strange!



We duly got back to our cottage at Nossob and settled down to relax and wait for our late afternoon drive. A campsite resident walking past our cottage stopped for a chat and told us that there had been 3 Lion not far out of the camp on the Twee Rivieren road that morning. Just our luck ….. we head north and the Lion show south!!



There was plenty to keep us occupied at the cottage. Lots of smaller birds in the trees as well as a few ground squirrels (one couple in particular having some fun in the sun!).



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Pippa took a walk to the hide to assess wheelchair access. Quite a sandy area getting from the car park to the walkway but manageable she said.



A couple of her pics from the hide.



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Later in the afternoon we went off for a drive (south!) hoping we might still get to see the Lion that were there this morning. Once again our luck was out….. no Lion to be seen. We stopped at Rooikop and watched some Springbuck and Wildebeest at the waterhole and then carried on and went along Marie’s Loop.



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It was hot and other cars had taken up any shade to be had at “Marie se Gat” so we headed back to camp and went to the hide to sit and watch the passing parade. The sandy area that Pippa spoke about was very sandy and quite a mission to get through. We managed but not without a lot of huffing and puffing! J



A Jackal came for a drink and of course plenty of Doves. We stuck around for a while and then decided it was time to head back to our cottage, start the fire for a braai and have a little whiskey (or two!).


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No sooner had we got to the car when a lady ran up and told us to go back ….. a lioness was on her way. No second invitations needed!


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What a way to end the day. And so back to the cottage feeling very excited after another great day in the park. The whiskey and braai went down a treat!

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I have only have read the disastrous beginning so far. You get the perseverance award. I am impressed with the many silver linings you gleaned from the troubled beginnings.

 

"The silver lining out of all our frustrations and worries through the day was the fantastic response from fellow travelers and the Nieuwoudtville residents. I was amazed at the number of people who stopped to offer help and to make sure that we had water and food while we waited to be collected." Plus SanParks really came through. During all the breakdown turmoil you even snapped the lovely picture of purple flowers. Maybe the new itinerary was an even better one. I don't know enough about the area to know. And you might have been more upset over the AC breakdown if you had not gone through the big mess 9 weeks earlier.

 

 

The rest of page 1:

Your first pictures are a great payoff. Hoopoe is my fav bird and you caught it in beautiful light.

 

"Once again nothing major to see on the route back..." Are you kidding? You have mating striped squirrels! Who gets mating squirrels?

Edited by Atravelynn
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Thanks very much for the kind comments so far.

 

 

 

 

"Once again nothing major to see on the route back..." Are you kidding? You have mating striped squirrels! Who gets mating squirrels?

 

Right outside the front door of the cottage as well ..... and with temperatures in the high 30's. Now that's persistence! :D

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I am glad that Nossob waterhole delivered also to you! BTW what is the camera equipment you have used? Those are some serious close-ups, as much as I remember the distances from the hide.

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I am glad that Nossob waterhole delivered also to you! BTW what is the camera equipment you have used? Those are some serious close-ups, as much as I remember the distances from the hide.

 

Thanks Xelas. I have a Nikon D610 and the lens used for the waterhole was a Sigma 150-600mm Sport. I had to crop in a fair bit.

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very impressed with the clarity of the photos if I may say so-and that you saw something from the Nossob hide! enjoying your report @@Davesg

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Hi @@Davesg and welcome to ST, thanks for a great trip report so far.

Your photo's 9/10/11 in post number 2 are simply stunning , I am really looking forward to the rest of the report.

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Day 3 and on to Kieliekrankie



Sadly our all too short a stay at Nossob came to an end but we were looking forward to seeing Kieliekrankie having read some very nice reviews about the camp and setting.



We only managed to get away at about 6:30am and travelled slowly down to Marie’s Loop hoping to get another sighting of the Lioness from the previous evening. Not long after turning onto the loop I spotted a Cheetah crossing the road about 50m ahead of us. We moved forward slowly and saw it moving deeper into the bush towards the river bed. Sadly though no photo opportunity. The grass along that particular stretch was quite dense and tall. But we did get a sighting. Exciting times!



Shortly after that we saw a car parked on the side of the road and eased up slowly to see what they had spotted. Initially we couldn’t see a thing but the occupants of the car very kindly pointed us in the right direction up the hill and there were a couple of Lion crouched down in the grass. Very difficult to see. Luckily it wasn’t long before one of them got up and started moving off higher up the hill. Still not a clear view for a decent photo but enough to get a shot for the record. Beautiful animals!


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We pressed on slowly with the intention of finding a nice shady spot at a waterhole closer to the Kielikrankie turnoff where we could park and wait for the 2:00pm check-in time. The car though was starting to worry me again. Still no power through thicker patches of sand and up hills. I had visions of breaking down and then having to try and arrange for a recovery. That stressed me out! No cell phone reception so we would have to hope for a passer-by to get a message through to one of the camps. I decided that it would be better to try and get some decent momentum going and push on to Twee Rivieren from where I could phone the workshop in Cape Town and hopefully get some advice on what the problem might be. Sadly that meant we didn’t have the opportunity of the leisurely drive down that we'd planned.


We stopped for a break at Dikbaardskolk and then came across a couple of Lion lazing about under some trees next to the road near Kij Kij. Quite a few cars had pulled up but we still had a good view. Being mid-morning and with dappled lighting under the trees my photo results are not great but still good enough for the record! J Looked like they had recently fed from a kill judging by the blood still on the youngster’s coat. He spent a fair amount of time cleaning himself while we were there.



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​A couple more pics taken along the way. Eagle-eye Pippa even spotted a mouse and get a photo of it! :D



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We made it to Twee Rivieren at about midday without any problem. The car in fact was much happier on the firmer gravel road from about Kij Kij onwards. I was a lot less stressed but still relieved to be able to make contact with the mechanics to get their opinion. We went to the restaurant and enjoyed a cool drink, the air-conditioning and a welcome break from the 38°C temperature.



My mechanic friends felt that I wasn’t doing any damage to the car. We had been checking oil, water etc. regularly (and they were fine) and there was no sign of over-heating of the engine. He felt it might be an electronic glitch and the computer had stored an error code which was putting the car into limp mode (restricting revs and gears to protect itself). He suggested we carry on to Kielikrankie and disconnect the battery terminal there that evening for an hour or so which would clear any error codes and effectively re-boot the system.



When we got back to the car we noticed a very flat tyre. A passing visitor offered help and then 2 SanParks staff arrived and took over and changed the wheel. They then showed us the way to their technical workshop where the tyre was repaired. Lucky to have this happen at Twee Rivieren and not in the middle of nowhere!



After filling up with diesel we set off for Kielikrankie. An uneventful trip with just one stop along the way to watch Hyena bathing in a waterhole. It was very hot! Hills were still an issue but having been reassured about the car I wasn’t feeling stressed about it. I just pretended to be looking very intently for game while crawling up at a snail's pace!! :D



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We both loved Kieliekrankie. Very comfortable accommodation, beautiful view of the red dunes and so, so peaceful. The waterhole is quite far off so game viewing and photography wasn’t great but sitting on the deck with a fire going and a drink in hand while the sun set was a wonderful experience. We saw a couple of Jackal and a Pale Chanting Goshawk drinking at the waterhole. An African Wildcat also made a brief appearance next to our deck but very fleeting and there wasn’t time for a decent photograph (Pippa is a cat lover of note so that was very special for her). Later that evening Pippa saw a Civet down at the waterhole. A long way off and indistinct in the darkness but the tell-tale ears were good enough for her to tick it off as a sighting!



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And so the end of another day. Not many photos to show off due to our rush to get to Twee Rivieren but still plenty of good memories.









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Day 4 – On to Kalahari Tented Camp



On our next trip I’d like to spend at least another day at Kieliekrankie but having heard so much about Kalahari Tented Camp we were both looking forward to our 2 nights there. We once again set off a bit later than intended (at about 7ish) so no doubt missed any potential opportunity of a Leopard sighting in the Montrose area. We had a great morning's viewing though. First sighting was a little Cape Fox ….. the first time either of us had seen one in real life. It didn’t hang around too long but I managed to snap a couple of photos before it disappeared.


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Next up were some Meerkat. Again a first for both of us and we were really pleased to have come across them. Such fascinating little animals and great to be able to capture a few photos of the “Sentinel” in classic pose! J


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Our next sighting was a Tawny Eagle which was sitting quite high up in a tree. We parked and waited and patience paid off …. It took off and flew down to the waterhole for a bath. It was fascinating watching the interaction between the Eagle and the resident Sandgrouse. They initially flew off and perched in a nearby tree but they clearly got impatient and wanted to get back to the water. A few of them started flying down and almost seemed to be dive-bombing the Eagle. This eventually provoked a reaction and it went on the attack. Exit Sandgrouse! J



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We then experienced some more of the wonderful friendliness and camaraderie of our fellow Kgalagadi tourists. We had pulled up in front of a car parked on the side of the road to look at a Lion lying fast asleep on the far side of the river bed in the shade of a tree. Not a good viewing and no photo opportunity but we waited in the hope that he might get up and give us a show. Not to be. The couple then drove up next to us and asked if we had seen the Cheetah about half a kilometer back? Nope we said ….missed them! They then had us turn around and follow them so that they could show us the spot. Very lucky because the Cheetah were also the other side of the river bed and in the shade. No doubt we would have missed them again. Again no chance of a decent photo but I took this shot for the record anyway!



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After a while we moved on sensing that they weren’t going to be getting up anytime soon. It was only 9:00am but already very hot.



There were a couple of bird sightings along the way and then near to 13th Borehole we were waved down by another car and told about 3 Lion that had been sighted there. They were very close to the road and parking area but fast asleep in the shade. The heat was clearly too much for them as well. There were quite a number of vehicles parked there so after a couple of attempted photos we pressed on to Mata Mata.



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We had a very nice sighting of Cape Eagle Owl between 13th and 14th Boreholes and managed to get a couple of decent photos of them.



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We arrived at Mata Mata at around about midday. Too early to check in to KTC so we parked in the shade near reception and disconnected the car battery terminal (which we didn’t do at Kieliekrankie as initially intended). Pippa went off to the shop to get some supplies needed for the next couple of days while I sat with the car. Noticing the bonnet of the car open a number of people stopped to offer help. We had a very pleasant chat with one couple in particular. They were obviously frequent visitors to Kgalagadi and had plenty of advice and stories to share. A nice way to pass the time while we waited to reconnect the battery and book in to KTC.



An hour and a half later I reconnected the battery and we set off to check in to KTC. The battery terminal trick didn’t work and progress up hills was still laboured and slow. But I was getting very good at my pretense of going slowly so as to be able to look avidly for any game! J



Wow! What a stunning set up at KTC. Fantastic accommodation again and a really beautiful view of the river bed. The waterhole itself was hidden behind a tree (we were in number 13) but I think it would have been too far away for clear viewing anyway. We loved it.



It was incredibly hot and we waited until 4:30 before going on our afternoon drive. Even then, and with the car having been parked in the shade, the temperature was showing as being 42°C. We only went as far as Sitzas and sat there in the shade to see what would come down to the waterhole. Only a few Gemsbok, including a couple of energetic youngsters, paid a visit.



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We stuck around for about an hour and then headed back to Mata Mata to collect some Roosterbrood that Pippa had ordered earlier. While crossing the river bed near the turn-off to KTC we saw a couple of cars on the hill on the opposite bank parked and watching something. There on our left were 4 Cheetah heading towards the KTC waterhole. Looked like a mother and 3 youngsters. They were walking away from us and already quite a distance away but very exciting nonetheless! We pushed on as quickly as my sick car would take us so that we could get the Roosterbrood and hopefully get back to camp in time to see them there.



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Back at KTC there were quite a few Wildebeest and Springbuck at and around the waterhole. They clearly sensed the approaching Cheetah and had their sentries posted. The sun started setting but still no sign of the Cheetah so I started the fire for our braai while we waited. Sadly no sight of them. It was only well after dark that we caught the bright eyes of what we assumed to be the Cheetah family going past us down in the river bed. Oh well ……. We’d had an excellent day and one can’t have it all.



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Every-time I read a KTP trip report i want to go back straight away and yours is no exception @@Davesg We stayed at kalahari Tented camp in 2015 and have to agree it is a wonderful place! Love the photo of the outstretched talon of the Tawney Eagle

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Thanks for your kind comment @@Towlersonsafari . The KTP bug has certainly bitten me as well. Can't wait for an opportunity to go back again but next time in cooler weather. As much as we enjoyed the trip, October/November was a bit too hot for us! :D

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The attacking Tawny is an incredible action-filled photo! And owls, I am such a fan of their big yellow eyes! That Sigma Sport delivered big time! However, in the hands of such a talented photographer as @@Davesg .... !! My pick of this lot of excellent photos is the walking away cheetah. It conveys the feeling of vastness and dryness and solitude.

 

After been to Etosha and Kruger (only) to compare, I think that camaraderie among the visitors is the highest in Kgalagadi! Each and every one was helpful and willing to share the sights and the sounds and the experiences. Priceless!

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Thank you very much for your kind comments and support of my report so far @@xelas. I've been very pleased with the Sigma lens so far and also pleased with a few of my photos ..... still an awful lot to learn though! :D I found the lighting very difficult to master on this trip even relatively early in the mornings.

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A few more exciting episodes @@Davesg and some excellent photos again. That Tawny Eagle shot, when chasing off the sandgrouse is something special. But also the Fox, the Meerkat and many others are really good shots! It's a shame you still had car trouble, but on the positive side were a lot of good sightings and the friendliness of fellow visitors. I hope they keep it up till we arrive in February;). I truly enjoy reading your tales, so thanks for sharing.

Peter

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@@Davesg

 

Are you sure about the cheetahs, that it was a mum with three siblings? Because KTC is where a coalition of males hang out a lot, called the four musketeers: D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos und Aramis, we saw them both in July 2015 and in July 2016 - pretty unique, a coalition of four male cheetahs

Edited by ice
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That Tawny Eagle and Sandgrouse interaction was superb. The Cape Fox and meerkats are KTP specials.

 

I like the toast at the end of post #14.

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Thanks very much for your comments @@PeterHG. We enjoyed watching the Tawny Eagle and it's interaction with the Sandgrouse. Very lucky to get that shot .... it all happened so quickly! The car issues did put a damper on the trip but over-all we still thoroughly enjoyed the experience up there. We've never experienced such friendliness before in our previous travels.

 

You may well be right about the Cheetah @@ice. They were some distance away from us in fading light. My assumption was based on an earlier conversation at Mata Mata where we'd been told of a Cheetah sighting of a mother and 3 youngsters in the vicinity that morning. Difficult to tell in the photo I posted but your suggestion looks right to me in retrospect. Thanks for that information.

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Thanks @@Atravelynn. Isn't that drink at the end of a hot but exciting day always the best?!! :D

Yes, I'll drink to that!

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Day 5



Our last day at KTC and we left early in the morning and took a slow drive to the 13th Borehole. No predators in sight that day for us but we did get a couple of nice bird viewing opportunities. First off was a Tawny Eagle. It was standing in the grass when we stopped but then marched into the road with great authority before flying off ….. a lovely day for a walk in the park! J



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There were a couple of Giraffe and Ostrich at the 14th Borehole so we sat there for a while to watch them.



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Next was another sighting of the Cape Eagle Owl at the same spot as the previous day near 13th Borehole except this time on the opposite side of the road and with a couple of chicks. Fascinating birds with their big yellow eyes. The young’uns seemed a bit bemused with all the attention they were getting.



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No sleepy Lion at 13th Borehole that morning and it was already very hot so we decided to head back to camp. By the time we got back to the Owl sighting there were another 4 cars parked there. We joined the queue and waited for another chance to see them but sadly the occupants of the car in prime position weren’t in any hurry to move and give others a turn. It was at least 20 minutes after we had stopped that they moved. The only time that we’d witnessed such a lack of courtesy to other visitors while in the Kgalagadi.



Back at camp it was stifling hot (43°C) and we spent the day spraying ourselves with water and sitting in whatever breeze we could find to try and cool off. We decided not to do a drive again that afternoon and to rather stay in the camp and see what developed in the river-bed below us. There was quite a cloud build-up to the west which looked promising for a spectacular sunset.



The wind started picking up a bit later in the afternoon. It didn’t cool us down though ….. more like having a hair drier blowing in your face! J In spite of the heat we had a great evening viewing the animals browsing on the river bed and enjoying a braai and evening drinks. The sunset was very nice although not quite as dramatic as I’d hoped for.



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By the time we started getting ready for bed the wind was quite strong. Pippa had gone into the tent and as I opened the door to go in a little while later a scorpion charged in ahead of me. One benefit of being in a wheelchair …. I wasn’t going to be stepping on it! J It scuttled furtively from one side of the tent to the other before I could capture it in a glass. We took a couple of photos for evidence before I took it outside and let it go over the balcony.



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