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Central Namibia Self-drive: beauty in a harsh land

Peter Connan

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Peter Connan

@@Chakra, it is indeed interesting that only one of the two are known as Meerkat in the English-speaking world.


I guess it's at least partially because the Suricate is related to the Mongoose family, whereas the Ground Squirel is related to the rodent family?


Thank you Nathan @@offshorebirder. More to come!


Sorry there was no episode this morning, I went birding instead.

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@@Peter Connan , I have liked your post because you went birding, not because you deprived me of my dose of beautiful Kgalagadi :) !

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Peter Connan



First out the gate, and strangely with nobody behind me, it felt like I was in my own world. None of the dust-clouds of being in the convoy!


On my previous visit, it had been strange to drive past a water-hole without seeing one or two Jackal, but this time I had not seen any yet.


Just past Leeudril, I struck the jackal jackpot! Four youngsters chasing each other around and through a patch of Driedoring.




Mom was trying to rest while keeping an eye out for danger.





Some more ostrich chicks



Then, just short of Rooiputs, I found a car standing against the verge. The occupants are staring at a tree, but I can see nothing. So I ask them the nature of my blindness. A Leopard!




Apparently a different one from the day before, this one had a dead vulture to gnaw on, but for the time being it was climbing the other side of the tree, and hiding in the thick stuff.






I eventually give up and move along.




Close to Kij Kij, another nice surprise:



Verraux's Eagle Owl, with what appears to be Goshawk prey. I have no idea whether it caught the Goshawk or somehow picked it up.


Next up (the Kgalagadi really sometimes feels like a parade of amazing sightings to me), a Tawny eagle



Being harrassed by a Pale Chanting Goshawk





Eventually, it leaves



At Kij Kij, a couple of Namaqua Doves fly past.



There are a lot of Turtle Doves in the tree. Soon, a Lanner comes swooping in!





I think this is about the closest it got though




A friend (and ex-guide) recently told me a story about a colleague who had told some clients that Wildebeest hibernated under-ground. Heading back, I come across one that had just crawled out. Don't believe everything your guides tell you!



Some Sand-grouse at Rooiputs



Another young PCG





At Leeudril, a small flock of Finches and Quelias keep me entertained for a few minutes



Cinnamon-breasted Bunting perhaps?





And lastly, this little guy crossing the road. The stones around him are normal road gravel. He must have been less than 10cm long, all stretched out!


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Peter Connan

The afternoon drive was relatively quiet. I crossed the Lower Dune Road to the Aub for a change. By the time I reached the Lower Dune Road, I still hadn't taken a single photo.



I am not sure whether the mouse/rat carried this flower in, or whether it was growing there.


Black Crows



Some Springbuck in Aub



Eventually, I ended up at Samevloeing, where some Gemsbok were getting ready for a drink.






Another young Goshawk hunting





And lastly, across the road, two Secretary birds on their nest


Edited by Peter Connan
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Yes, Kgalagadi often looks like a neverending parade of great sights ... just none of the leopard, in our case. So really glad you have had them in abundance!

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Dave Williams

Wow, I want to visit ! Excellent sightings.The weather looks much improved too?

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KaingU Lodge

@@Peter Connan


Peter, the quiver tree shots are fantastic! So is the rest. Great stuff.

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I never knew that wildebeast hibernate underground... <_<

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Such a fun report to read.

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lovely photo's @@Peter Connan how friendly was the tortoise? the KTP has to be our favourite place in South Africa-which is saying an awful lot!

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Peter Connan

Thank you @@xelas, @@Dave Williams, @@KaingU Lodge, @@PT123, @@PCNW and @@Towlersonsafari.


@@Dave Williams, no rain in the Kgalagadi, but I must be honest, I really enjoied the thunderstorms, and felt very privileged to be able to see so much rain in these arid areas. The only time when it was a bit of a dampener was when we were trying to fix that radiator, and even then, it only lasted for a few minutes.

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Peter Connan

Day 20.


This morning, Sonja accompanied me for what must be both my best and worst days on Safari ever. Best in terms of the sightings, worst in terms of my ability to capture it on film...


It started off pretty early with this large Steenbok ram.



Then, some mongoose.



Then a Springbuck displaying



A Crimson-breasted Shrike doing athletics





Just before Rooiputs, the Leopard was still hiding in it's tree.


Just 200m after Rooiputs:



4 Lions on the move!




A little chase started building.







But the finale happened behind a tree from me, and I still have no idea what the quarry was.


And then, of course, movement ceased



By this time, there were quite a lot of cars spread along the road. Our temporary neighbors told us there was another set of four lions a couple of kilometers further along.


Can somebody help with ID please:



Soon we found them. They were moving towards the first group, but too far away to make a meeting likely.



And soon, they also settled down.



Heading further on, we came across a small herd of Gemsbok, of whom one seemed to have gotten some Wildebeest Disease.









And then a dust-bathing Kori Bustard

At this point, somebody took pity on us and asked us if we had seen the Cheetah. Apparently, there were two cheetah between the two prides/groups of Lions. So back we went.


The first group of lions were still sitting where we had left them, but also at least still aware, not just sprawled out.


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A Xelas sighting along with everything else! That skink in the secretary bird's beak is a tremendous catch for you both.

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Peter Connan

Soon we found the Cheetah standing on a fallen tree




We were standing next to an open safari vehicle equiped with a number of gimbal heads sporting serious lenses, and I saw the driver notice something to the right of us. A couple of springbuck were shambling along towards the Cheetah! What followed was my worst moment as a photographer...


Fast food:



Rapid acceleration:



The other end:



Focus on the background:






Getting worse



And we all just give up



The other Cheetah then displayed an interest in the second Springbuck, which was still standing nervously to the right, but it had seen the Cheetah and left the moment the cheetah came down from the tree, so this Cheetah went to join it's partner.



We had orders to be back at camp for brunch at ten, and it was 20 past nine now, so we started back. At the water-hole, I got distracted by some Sandgrouse. Photographically though, it was another bust, with this being my best result, still far short of what I want to achieve.



Back at the Leopard tree, the Leopard was now, for the first time in two days, actually eating during daylight.



The morning drive had been an unbelievable parade. The first (and second) time I had ever seen an apex predator make a move (something I guess almost all aspiring wildlife photographers dream of), and I had duffed it both times, I was left in a bitter mood, which was not fair on Sonja. Sometimes I wish I could just watch and remember...

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Peter Connan

In the afternoon, I decided to do the Leeudril 4x4 route (for which I had bought a permit the previous day).


Now I have a love-hate relationship with 4x4 trails in national parks, and I feel they should be called something else. They are never particularly challenging. I guess I understand why, since the Parks Board's first priority is to safeguard the environment, and secondly since there are dangerous animals around and you don't want anybody to have to walk around (the first rule of real 4x4ing is to walk the obstacle in advance, and getting stuck should be almost a given).


Thus, I really only take them to get away from the crowds. This was the only other car I saw on the route.





Arriving at the Aub, I turned North, then took the Lower Dune road. The Aub was again pretty quiet.


On the lower dune road, there was a little bit of life.






Back on the Nossob, and heading back south.









At Rooiputs, the Leopard was still hiding in the tree.


The mongoose family were out though.



And, for the first time this trip, so were some Suricates



At Leeudril, some Gemsbok





Back at camp, some fun with a bubble-gun.





And so concluded our last full day. Just one morning drive left, and then the long slog back home.


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Peter Connan

A Xelas sighting along with everything else! That skink in the secretary bird's beak is a tremendous catch for you both.

Thank you @@Atravelynn

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Dave Williams

Wow, what a place. I definitely want to go!

I can imagine your frustration with the Cheetahs but at least you both saw them and captured them on camera which in itself is special. Yes, I know, it could have been so much better but hey, well done! I'm envious.

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Ahhh he photographers' curse - focussing (pun intended) on the negatives....you'll just have to go back and try again. And again. And again!


Gorgeous slender mongoose portrait though!

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Wow, two Leopards, you were really lucky! More stellar photography - when it did work out. :P

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I have heard about a camera that has an insane ability to lock on the subject as if it is guided by photographer's mind ... just don't tell Zvezda :D.

Lovely photos, Peter, and you have seen the hunt, that is what really matters.

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Peter Connan

Thanks @xelas. If you believe camera reviews, that camera is called the D500. Or the D5. Or that new Sony A9. Not that I do, anymore, and sadly I will probably not find out either.

Day 21:

(Warning: Raptor Overload!)


Back up to Rooiputs. First stop, the leopard tree. Soon, another car arrived. I had stopped next to a small bush, and because my car is relatively high, when they stopped next to me they couldn't see over my bonnet, so I moved over a little so that they could fit in between me and the bush. I had scarcely finished, when the leopard started chewing on the vulture. But then, it dropped the vulture. After a half-minute's indecision, it followed the vulture down!


The light was still pretty bad, with the sun not reaching the ground yet.

Fortunately, the leopard was patient for once, and remained until the sun reached it. STTR-527.jpg.7d6a760d8b6e7ddd931fe7d29fc47857.jpg

The tree it was in was about half-way between the main South African road, and the little twee-spoor that is supposed to be used mainly by the residents of Rooiputs camp. Because the verge of the main road was by now pretty jam-packed, some guys started using the twee-spoor. But as soon as the first car stopped, the leopard obviously felt trapped, and it got up and slinked off into the dunes.


And so I headed on for Kij Kij, with sporadic bird sightings along the way.




At Kij Kij there were hundreds of Turtle Doves sitting in the trees, and it wasn't long before a Lanner pitched up.





Then, a large raptor being harried by a Pale Chanting Goshawk flew past. I am not sure whether this is immature Black-chested Snake-eagle, or immature Martial Eagle, but judging by the yellow eyes I am leaning towards the former? Either way, it was my first (and only) sighting of whichever one it was.




Back to Rooiputs, where I at last got some useable images of the Sandgrouse coming in. Apologies for the overload, but to me they are such an enigmatic species.





A pair of Lanners swooped in, but all three of us missed.



I was just thinking that it was strange that I had seen two Pygmys in one drive, and then notheng again, when:


But when he flew off, he went behind the branch, so I shall just have to return for an in-flight shot...

And so with my heart jubilating at how the Kgalagadi always seems to leave the best for last, yet heavy that this was the end, I moved along.






Between Samevloeing and Twee Rivieren, in that patch of dead ground where nothing ever happens, a juvenile goshawk was sitting on a bush right on the verge of the road. A car was parked right next to him, probably not three metres away. I pulled up and maneuvred to get a shot.

The Goshawk then took off and hovered above the Driedorings just next to the bush. I have never seen such behaviour. The photos that follow are virtually un-cropped!



Eventually, having missed whatever prey was there, it flew off a little way.


My last sighting was this Common Fiscal. I had seen many, but always too far away.


And so, barring a long slog home which included an overnight stop at a strange little resort north of Vryburg, the magnificent adventure came to an end.

Edited by Peter Connan
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Birds in flight (BIF) surely gave your camera AF or its operator zero problems ... beautiful sharp photos. 

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Such a great report, so glad to be a part of it through this report and starting way back with your camper construction report.  Thanks for spending the long hours these reports take.  Well done!!

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Peter Connan

Thanks @xelas and @PCNW.

Alex, i promise, there were LOTS of discards!

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