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Kgalagadi Sept 2018: long drives and at long last a leopard!


Tdgraves
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As most people on ST are aware, getting a reservation in the KTP in peak time is a black art. Last time we went in September, we got our travel agent friend to do the booking and got almost exactly as we wanted. This time he was going to be away, so I had to take the responsibility of booking myself. I had sent a back up email, but was mainly counting on the phone, as I knew that this would be closer to the front of the queue, if I could get through. Unfortunately, due to the South African school holidays, the booking period covered two months and the absolute peak period, so the telephone system went into melt down. I constantly rang various different numbers, some of which appeared to get into a queue, whilst others did not get through to the correct automated system properly at all. Obviously I was charged for them all :(. Eventually after 90 minutes of trying, I got through. By this stage, Nossob was fully booked for the entire month of September (despite having many new units) and most of the wilderness camps were also booked. So my itinerary was almost thrown away and I just took what I could get, with somewhere to stay for all of the planned nights, apart from the last Wednesday, but it was far from ideal. I took Bitterpan without having been there and not realising that a long dune drive was required to get there. Less than ideal. So, 11 months of daily checking the SANParks website for availability and I think 4 changes later, I had got rid of Bitterpan and 6 consecutive nights in Mata Mata/Kalahari tented camp and we were back to a much better trip, albeit we had to start in Nossob. I was just glad to get any nights there and extra pleased that we could try the new riverside units. 

 

This was the final itinerary:

 

Nossob riverfront 3 nights

Mata Mata riverfront 1 night

Urikaruus 1 night

Kalahari tented 3 nights

Twee Rivieren 3 nights

 

We used air miles for the flights and the journey to/through Heathrow was very easy. The flights were very comfortable and we got lots of sleep.

 

As our friends have retired to the Cape, I foolishly decided that we could go to Upington straight from the airport, rather than the usual day in Joburg to decompress first. Usually this would not be a problem. However, the Johannesburg police department had other plans. They had set up road block on the airport access road, where all lanes converge and it took us 90 minutes just to leave the airport. An inauspicious start. Because of this, we then caught the Joburg Friday afternoon rush hour traffic and were horribly behind schedule. We then got stuck on a road which was being resurfaced, so had several sets of stop/go roadworks where it was down to one lane. Basically, it was the journey from hell. Tensions in the car were high and there was lots of swearing. We eventually got to our B&B in Upington at 22.30, stopping only for comfort breaks and having no dinner. "Never again" was the phrase of the day. We did discover however, that the traffic is so much better after dark (when we usually avoid driving) and we made the most progress after the sun had gone down.

 

Everything was better in the morning. A great night's sleep, a shower and a big breakfast and it was as if yesterday had never happened (sort of...). As we had to get to Nossob, rather than just to Twee Rivieren, it had to be best foot forward, as the estimate is 3.5 hours from the gate, with a 2.5 hour journey to get to the park. We had to shop before we could set off. First stop was to buy a cooler box, as we normally borrow one from our friends. We got a good one from the Midas shop, who even gave us a discount. Next stop, Pick n' Pay, where our order was waiting for us. We had a nice chat with the manager and a team of staff to help us pack the car. Next, to the Kalahari mall to get a SIM card (we usually borrow a phone from our friends...) and finally Woolworths for meat, fruit/veg and treats. Then we are off. The drive to the park was easy, as usual.

 

As I've already given the spoiler alert in the title - here she is...

 

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There were posts of her all over Facebook before we left, so we had hoped that we would see her and we did!

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Cracking shot! A real stunner.

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I do enjoy your reports @Tdgraves there always tips we can learn from, and you were clearly much better at finding leopards than we were! looking forward to hearing about where you saw it-or hopefully them!

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Loooong drive! Now I am happy that I have splurged for the flight. You could also start from Cape Town, about the same distance. Plus the cooler and the phone ...

 

So, now you have a master degree in playing the KTP chess ... bravo!

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Quality teaser, looking forward to your report.

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thanks @CDL111 @xelas @Towlersonsafari and @Dave Williams

 

It is easier to get reward flights to Joburg rather than Cape Town, although for this trip, we actually returned from Cape Town as there was no availability from Joburg and of course, to see our friends' new place. The drive to Cape Town is definitely easier and more scenic (time wise no shorter though), but very bleak, no mining trucks being the best part! I could imagine getting stuck behind lorries on the mountain passes though. KTP chess is stressful, but only for September/October, outside of this time is much easier to secure a reservation. Definitely worth the hassle :D. Even if I hadn't made our itinerary better, we still would've had a great trip I'm sure.

 

It did take us three trips to find a leopard, so keep on trying...I must say, since we have been back, the sightings of her on Facebook have definitely gone down - perhaps she has moved on?

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@Tdgraves so third time is lucky time?! Hmmm, 2015, 2016 ... wow, next one will be also our third visit! Maybe some Capetowners would be interested to (re)visit Kgalagadi in future years :huh:^_^:rolleyes:

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It seems you must have just missed @Elsa Hoffmann...

 

I am very glad you survived your un-planned night trip unscathed. It sure is more comfortable, but it can so easily go wrong, as I know from bitter experience.

 

Looking forward to the rest! 

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what a beauty!  Look forward to more! :D

 

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oh it's too beautiful!!! nice capture! 

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Looking forward to this report, beautiful Leopard!

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You were lucky! I was there in August and the day before we arrived there was a  leopard at the Nossob waterhole and the day after i left again. The anxious and eager photographer with me who caught the gap much to his chagrin. Great shot!

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29 minutes ago, lensgonewild said:

You were lucky! I was there in August and the day before we arrived there was a  leopard at the Nossob waterhole and the day after i left again. The anxious and eager photographer with me who caught the gap much to his chagrin. Great shot!

 

@lensgonewild “luck” or lack thereof can ruin a safari, if you let it. I think you just need to be laid back and go with the flow. Easier said than done though! This leopard sighting from Mata Mata was with one other couple. In the queue to get our permits, they told me that they had just come from 8 nights in Nossob with NO lions at all! From her face, I think this more than made up for it....

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Day 1: Twee Rivieren to Nossob, 15/9/18

 

It was 37 degrees as we drove to our first camp, this turned out to be the hottest day of the entire trip. Given that it was lunchtime when we got to the gate, there was not much game around on our drive. The main reason for buying a SIM was to call home to find out about the health of our cat. She had started to look unwell, just before we left for the airport, but as cats do, she vanished, so that we couldn't check her or take her to the vets. It turned out that she was fine, but unfortunately we had to have her put down three weeks ago and I am devastated. We stopped at the Samevloeiing waterhole to make the call and saw these...

 

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and then we were off!

 

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We made it camp with plenty of time to spare, but given our last 24 hours and the heat, we elected not to go on an evening game drive and instead unpacked and relaxed in out palatial riverfront chalet. They are similar to the Mata Mata ones, but are a bit more spaced out. I really liked it, but missed the sense of community and ability to easily wander around afforded by the old chalets....

 

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So sorry to hear about your cat!

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Yes very sorry  to hear your news.We had to do the same earlier  this year a horrid experience 

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Great trip report @Tdgraves, with a stunning leopard shot to get it going! Not an easy start from Johannesburg, obviously, but I'm glad you arrived in Upington safely. Sorry to hear about your cat.....

Looking forward to more stories and photos!

 

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Very sorry to hear about your kitty. We once had to leave a sick cat when we went on a trip...it was really difficult even though we left him in good hands with a friend who was a vet tech.  We called every day but it really colored our trip--it was very difficult. Fortunately he rallied when we got home, but we lost him not too long after :(  So I really empathize.

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Very sorry to hear about your cat. To loose a pet is very traumatic and hard. :(

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Thanks @Ritsgaai @janzin and @PeterHG I just wish my boss was so empathetic :angry:

I have actually finally been feeling my normal self for the last day or two, so I guess it is getting better....

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Day 2, Morning drive, Nossob 16/9/18

 

We had heard a lot of lion activity overnight, but given our tired state, we didn't bother getting up, after all, this is Nossob, centre of lion country. This would later prove to be an error, however, it did lead to the best predator sighting on the night camera ever...

 

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It was only 3 degrees when we set off for a drive, north.  I had the 5D today. There was not much game between waterholes and there is noticeably more traffic, due to the additional units and campsites. In the past, if there were more than two or three vehicles, it was safe to assume that there was a special sighting, this no longer holds true. Evidence of the evening activity....

 

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We had a brief glimpse of a pair of bat-eared foxes

 

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We decided to sit for a while at Kwang and see what unfolded.

 

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The doves were going through their morning rituals when a Lanner falcon decided to see if he could catch one for breakfast. He did not manage and we did not manage to catch a shot of it...next up was a jackal

 

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He was very tenacious...

 

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But just as difficult to catch as the Lanner...

 

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He was not successful whilst we were there and was interrupted by the arrival of these two...

 

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We decided to move on

 

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It was 27 degrees when we got back to camp for breakfast.

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