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A Summer of Swifts and Swallows – Kruger, Kgalagadi & Augrabies Falls (Jan. 2020)


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You really nailed the owls picture in the dark, stunning.... And you are right, the photos of the aardvark are a bit disturbing :blink: 

Regarding Samevloeiing I have never seen anything at the waterhole, can only recall a few sprinboks....my favourites are 13th and 14th near Mata Mata and Kij Kij, Kwang and Quitje Quap on the Nossob-side. 

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Nooooo! A dead Aardvark @adamt123 my favourite  animal! 

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Many Thanks @mtanenbaum


I haven’t been to KZN and I haven’t heard of Zimanga, though after googling it certainly looks interesting. I have also never used a photography hide before. In Spain (Extremadura and Catalonia) hides are quite common, and I have always been interested in popping down there for the weekend (its only two hours away from me) and photographing vultures – they have Lammergeier, Egyptian, Eurasian Griffon and Cinereous vultures, all of which are rare/not found in sub-Saharan Africa. Regardless, your plans  for  SA certainly look exciting :)


As for the files – there were no flies. In fact, I don’t remember flies around any of the cats (or animals) that we saw. (Also, my images have very light editing and so I would never remove flies from the image if they were there :))

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Your kind words are much appreciated @Athene :)


Yes, Kgalagadi is indeed a unique place when compared with other popular safari destinations. For me, a big part of this is also its accessibility; 1h 30m flight from Joburg/Cape Town and then the short drive north. This, together with good in-park infrastructure and accommodation (compared with Central Kalahari Game Reserve, for example) make it perfect for self-driving.


Also, if you don’t mind my asking, how long were you in the park for in August and did you see a brown hyena? (I know @JayRon was lucky enough to see two, but am curious if you had had any luck)

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Thank you @JayRon The owls were lovely to photograph and made for a splendid start to the day :)


It is very interesting to note your favourite watering holes; I have had good sightings from Mata Mata to the 14th Borehole. At Sitzas, for example, we saw an African wild cat (this is back in 2018) and that was one of the best sightings of my life.


You also mention Cubitje Quap which is interesting because I had hopes for this waterhole, but as I have already detailed, it did not produce a good sighting for us. 

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@Towlersonsafari Oh dear!


I haven’t ever seen a living aardvark, but from this sighting and from pictures online they certainly are mysterious animals. (I still think aardwolfs are much cuter though! :P)  

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You have been shown all the best what Kgalagadi has to offer, and you have shown them to us in a spectacular way, @adamt123. KTP is an outstanding location, and for those lucky enough to get a couple of open spaces at Wilderness camps, an unforgettable one.

A side note: the IQ of 60-600 lens positively surprised me, specially for photos taken at closer range.

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We stayed in the park 7 nights and covered the area between Rooiputs and Polentswa on the Botswana side of the Park. We did see a brown hyena in the distance, very far away so unfortunately we couldn't take a photo. The sightings were generally better at Rooiputs and the animal we saw every day was a honey badger together with a pale chanting goshawk. 

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Many thanks @xelas. :)


Yes, the wilderness camps are unforgettable. This time around, Urikaruus wasn’t available (it hardly ever is) and we didn’t want to take the 4x4 trails for Bitterpan or Gharagab. KTC was available, and we could have changed our dates a little bit for Kieilekrankie and Grootkolk. However, we made a joint decision not to because of the summer heat.


Overall, I don’t regret our choice, but I do recognize that if we had chosen Grootkolk in particular we would have had a wilder experience.

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Thanks for the info @Athene :). Despite the brown hyena, you did very well with the honey badgers – I am yet to see one in Kgalagadi (or anywhere for that matter).


In all honesty, this time we didn't have huge luck the "Kgalagadi specials" (brown hyena, honey badger, caracal, cape fox, African wild cat, bat eared fox, meerkat etc.). We did see a few of them, but I would have liked to have seen a few more. The fact that we had excellent lion and cheetah sightings did help a lot though. 

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Day 15 – Game Drive Two


Our two nights at Twee Rivieren had produced some superb sightings, but now was the time to continue up to Mata Mata. We had the choice of either taking the shorter Auob riverbed or taking the longer Nossob riverbed, short dune road and then joining up with the Auob at Auchterlonie. We chose the latter option because the Nossob riverbed had been good to us thus far, and because we definitely wanted to take another look at the aardvark.


We left Twee Rivieren at around 9.30 and made our way down to the aardvark kill. Out timing here was close to perfect. One of the classic scenes of Africa is vultures on a kill, something which I hadn’t really seen that well before. But here, we had timed ourselves quite well to see the remains of the aardvark being gobbled up by about half dozen White Backed Vultures and a majestic Lappet Faced Vulture. The lappet-faced was the one I was particularly hoping to have good views of because I had previously only ever seen it on the wing, so it was great to examine this fine specimen more closely.





First White Backed Vulture







More Arriving





Lappet Faced Vulture















The lappet-faced wasn’t actually too interested in eating (perhaps it had already taken its fill), but the white-backed vultures did a great job of stripping the carcass clean. Because the leopard had left the carcass right next to the road, it was very interesting to get a close look at the poor aardvark, its fingernail-like claws being especially unusual. As well as the two vulture species, we had close views of Tawny Eagle, another well-known scavenger; these were shier, taking a few scraps then flying off, but they still came in very close range. We stayed for about 30 minutes, until the vultures had finished feasting and the aardvark was left unrecognizable. As I absolutely LOVE vultures, this was a nice personal highlight for me. 


Feasting in Full Flow











Tawny Eagle





The remainder of our time on the Nossob riverbed was relatively quiet, as was the Short Dune Road, though we did stop for more eland carcasses. The middle section of the Auob riverbed, from Auchterlonie to Kamqua was also quiet. Based purely on atmosphere and “feel” I have always preferred the Auob riverbed to the Nossob; that the riverbed is narrower, and the sand is more orange I think gives this riverbed its unique ambience. Towards Urikaruus we had our first Giraffe, and this was shortly followed by Secretary Birds at the 13th Borehole. It was also in this area that we had our only sighting of Crowned Lapwing, as well as a few Lanner Falcons and a distant Black Chested Snake Eagle. 


Weaver Nest



Eland Carcasses












Crowned Lapwing



Lanner Falcon



Auob Riverbed



On the loop road of the 14th Borehole, towards the end, we had a Lion pair. They were male and female taking shade underneath a tree – by this time it was 1pm. We didn’t stay with them for too long as they weren’t doing much, but this was in fact our only lion sighting in the Mata Mata area. At Dalkeith, the waterhole immediately following the 14th, we had a large Springbok herd taking shelter under from the sun under an impressive tree. Further north from waterhole proper we had another cat sighting, this time the first Cheetah of the trip! We would later learn that this was a female cheetah with cubs, but for now, we were very pleased to get our first shots of this famous predator. The final stages of the game drive were quieter, but all things considered, this had still been a successful journey.





















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Mata Mata Camp


The riverfront chalets at Mata Mata are closer together and more compact than the ones at Nossob. While the terrace and bathroom are large, the kitchen and living area are noticeably smaller. We were accommodated in chalet 6, the first two-person chalet and the one closest to both reception and the in-camp watering hole (that will be an important detail later). In camp birdlife was decent, with Cape Starlings, Laughing Dove, White Browed Sparrow Weaver, Familiar Chat, Southern Grey Headed Sparrow all frequenting our terrace and a male Shaft Tailed Whydah also observed at the waterhole. The resident Black Backed Jackals were particularly vocal and large flock of Common Swift also visited on our last morning.


Laughing Dove



White Browed Sparrow Weaver





Familiar Chat



Southern Grey Headed Sparrow



Shaft Tailed Whydah 



Common Swifts






I will also take this opportunity to explain the situation at Mata Mata in more depth. Driving up, we were surprised at just how dry the area was, especially north of Craig Lockhart. There were a few patches of green, particularly around the 13th and 14th Boreholes and further south at Gemsbokplein and Montrose and it was in these areas that the springbok were more concentrated. Other than a lone hartebeest, we didn’t see any other plain game species in the Mata Mata region. Birdlife, particularly north of Dalkeith was poor, a significant contrast to the Nossob riverbed.


Mata Mata Riverfront Chalet







View from Terrace



Despite all this, I really enjoyed our stay at Mata Mata which would essentially become a cheetah tracking exercise. I believe the area around Mata Mata is considered to be prime cheetah viewing area, and it certainly did not disappoint on this. In total, over our two nights we had four sightings, including the one I have detailed in the previous post.

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Day 15 – Game Drive Three


This was a very strange game drive. Put simply, we did not a single animal except a few distant Cape Turtle Doves at Sitzas. We drove from Mata Mata to Sitzas and then from Sitzas towards Craig Lockhart but we didn’t see anything much at all. It was a still and frankly disappointing few hours.


Auob Riverbed shots between Craig Lockhart and Mata Mata













Day 15 – After Game Drive Three


Now, between the two game drives we had been speaking to our neighbours in chalet 7. They were a South African couple who informed us that there were murmurs around camp that a caracal had based itself in the trees just across from the riverbed and had been seen slinking to the waterhole every so often. Tonight, it would show well.


We arrived back into camp at gate closing time (7.30) and headed for our chalet. Upon getting out on the terrace and scanning the riverbed, the Caracal was indeed there. It was already making its way to the waterhole and soon began drinking; it continued to do that for a good ten minutes. The atmosphere in camp was bubbling; the hide was getting full and those people staying in chalets further away were making their way down. I then expected the caracal to slink back into the bush. It did not do that. Rather, it approached our chalet and we were in almost touching distance of it. The only sounds were that of the camera shutter opening and closing (which conveniently got the cat looking towards me), and the birds raising their alarm calls. After investigating around the perimeter of our chalet, it disappeared.


Oddly enough, I have seen caracal in Kgalagadi before, close to the 13th Borehole (again on the Auob side) which means my current caracal in Kgalagadi streak stands at 100%. What made this sighting extra special though was of course the proximity of the cat and the length of the sighting. This was the sort of experience that we come to Kgalagadi for. The photos below (from both cameras) are in chronological order, with the cat getting closer to us, except for the first shot which is my personal favourite.



































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Wow @adamt123 my caracal rate at KTP is 0% (0/4). I was really hopeful this time, as one had been on Facebook a lot before we left, but it was not to be :angry:

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Great views of the caracal, what a memorable sighting.

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lovely caracal sighting, and ( in spite of the victim) what a great vulture sighting. Its funny how seasons and years change-we were last in the KTg in November a couple of years ago and the auob was much greener than the nossob and gave  great sightings @adamt123

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What an amazing Caracal sighting!

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Thank you all for your kind words @xelas, @Treepol, @Zim Girl :)


@Tdgraves Hopefully one day the caracal will show! For me its rather strange that caracals have shown so well, but then I haven't seen a single bat eared fox or honey badger (in Kgalagadi)


Interesting to hear about the different riverbeds @Towlersonsafari. This time around (excluding the caracal), it was really the cheetahs that saved the day for the Auob riverbed, other than that the lack of rain had taken its toll. Hopefully things have improved now. 


Edited by adamt123
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Peter Connan
18 hours ago, Tdgraves said:

Wow @adamt123 my caracal rate at KTP is 0% (0/4). I was really hopeful this time, as one had been on Facebook a lot before we left, but it was not to be :angry:


Would it make you feel better to learn that my Caracal score is 0% in ALL parks? That I have in fact never seen one in the wild?


Amazing sighting @adamt123

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2 hours ago, Peter Connan said:


Would it make you feel better to learn that my Caracal score is 0% in ALL parks? That I have in fact never seen one in the wild?


Amazing sighting @adamt123

no it wouldn’t @Peter Connan as mine is also 0% and I guess my denominator is much higher than yours also....

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Before we begin, here is quite a nice picture which I had forgotten to post with the caracal; it is a Cape Starling in the branches next to our chalet raising an alarm call as the cat approached. The sunset hues were very purple on this eve (as is also clear in caracal photos) and I think this gave rather a nice backdrop to the sighting. 






Day 16 – Game Drive One


We left camp earlyish hoping to make this a longer game drive, going down all the way to Urikaruus. Just as we were leaving Mata Mata, we had a nice encounter with the resident Cape Ground Squirrels, including a rather cute youngster.  Sitzas produced a close-up sighting of Black Backed Jackals and towards Dalkeith we had a few birds – Namaqua Sandgrouse, Cape Turtle Dove, Marico Flycatcher and the only African Hoopoe and Grey Backed Sparrow Lark we saw in Kgalagadi.


Cape Ground Squirrel





Black Backed Jackals











Grey Backed Sparrow Lark



Arriving at Dalkeith, yesterday’s female Cheetah showed herself, this time giving more unobstructed views. A cub was also present. The female made some movement but on the whole was pretty relaxed; we didn’t have excellent views of the cub, but it was nice see nonetheless. Slightly further south, at the beginning of the Dalkeith loop, a large herd of Springbok were gathering, and we noted that owing to the proximity of the prey, a hunt was perhaps likely…













For now, however, after spending as much time as we liked with the felines, we continued south to Urikaruus via the 14th and 13th Boreholes. However, we had no luck here; there were a handful of Springbok and a Scaly Feathered Finch, but nothing else was seen. On the way back to camp, we stopped at Dalkeith again but this time the cheetahs had retreated totally into the shade.



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Day 16 – Game Drive Two


During the long break between the game drives, as well as catching a few movies, we spoke to our neighbours again. Discussing the cheetah situation, they noted that the female cheetah in fact had four cubs, while we only had glimpses of one. Armed with this info, we again headed out to Dalkeith (which lies about 25km south of camp). On the way there, a few cars had stopped at a Springbok about to give birth. I don’t mean this with any negativity, but we were not staying for that.


Instead we continued to Dalkeith. Here, away from the waterhole proper, we easily located the female Cheetah. She had indeed made a springbok kill. The prey had been dragged under a bush and I assume the kill must have taken place fairly recently because only a small amount had yet been eaten. For a while, the cheetah was resting next to the carcass, though she did periodically take a few bites. Then, a magical and unforgettable scene unfolded. The mother began calling for the cubs with purrs and soft mews and all four of them came down from the dunes returning her calls.


This was the first time I had properly seen cheetah cubs. Once the cubs had made their way to their mother, the family all settled down at the kill, before feasting. Though we had missed the kill, I didn’t mind too much (kills aren’t really my thing) and before our time in Kgalagadi was up, we would witness a kill, though a mammal-free one. I mentioned earlier that we had four cheetah sightings, and this marks the third. However, this would be our last viewing of the Dalkeith female and her cubs; it was nice to leave them on a climatic sighting like this one. I hope they are all doing well.











(her calling)



(their responding)





























We left the sighting as cubs were still eating their dinner. On the drive back to Mata Mata, a quick stop at Craig Lockhart produced a healthy number of Cape Turtle Doves and we had a brief glimpse of a sparing Springbok pair at Sitzas. As we entered camp, a close viewing of Yellow Mongoose greeted us, as well as a barking Cape Crow.


Craig Lockhart








Yellow Mongoose





Cape Crow



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