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Kgalagadi Jan 2020: Desert, drought and dead eland


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After finally getting over what I assume to have been Coronavirus (antibody testing next week will confirm), we have now had a chance to process the thousands of photos and so I feel that I need to at least make a start on my TR! As we went to the Kruger in September 2019, it seemed strange to go back there in our usual January slot, a thought which occurred to us whilst on safari in Sri Lanka in January 2019. So, a good few days into the SANParks booking period and when I got a decent 3G signal, I had a browse of the SANParks website en route to the Gal Oya lake. There was plenty of availability, even including a wilderness camp, so I sent an email, as I was not convinced that my connection would be good enough to get the booking completed. By the time we were back on the road towards camp after our boat cruise, I had an email from SANParks confirming our booking. Next was finding somewhere to stay on our first night. As our friends where we would normally stay have left Joburg, I needed to find somewhere en route to Upington. The last time we tried to get all the way to Upington from the airport, we had a complete disaster, so we were not going to try that again....



Every time we have driven past the Barberspan bird sanctuary, we had thought that we ought to stop and given it is approximately half way between the airport and Upington (about 4 hours drive) we felt that this was doable, even if we had the same issues as last time leading to delay. The main problem was finding somewhere to stay, as it is not exactly tourist central around the N14. There are a few hotels and B&Bs but most did not look great and largely had no internet presence. I eventually found Wildebeespan B&B about 5 minutes outside of Delareyville and 10 minutes to the gate of the pan. It took weeks via a third party website to get a response and I was thinking that we would need to find somewhere else, when I got a reply. We were pleasantly surprised by it. A very friendly and accommodating host with self-contained units including fridge and tea & coffee making facilities.


Next up were the flights. I was running a bit low on air miles, so decided to wait for a good offer, hoping for the best. We ended up going on Qatar via Doha, which did increase the journey time, particularly on the return, but I couldn't say no to business LHR-JNB return for £1500 pp, the usual price for premium economy on BA. Qatar are excellent and it just meant getting to the airport earlier than usual but arriving at around the same time. We had a 7 hour layover on the way home (shortening it massively increased the fare) so we booked a hotel room for a shower and a few hours sleep in an actual bed in Doha. It all worked out very well, except I missed having the whole Sunday to sort things out before returning to work the following day.


The B&Bs we use in Upington are the same each time and we discovered the Pretoria one, which is very convenient for the airport on our last Kruger trip.





17/1      Arrive, Wildebeespan B&B, Delareyville

18/1      Browns Manor B&B, Upington

19/1      Twee Rivieren, 1 night  

20/1      Nossob (riverfront unit) 4 nights

24/1      Kalahari tented camp (honeymoon desert tent) 3 nights

27/1      Kieliekrankie 3 nights

30/1      African Vineyard B&B, Kanoneiland, Orange River

31/1      Pheasant Hill B&B, Pretoria

1/2        Leave


A little taste of what is to come...


49952087701_9041071652_k.jpgJ19A3119 by tdgraves, on Flickr

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Day 1: Johannesburg to Delareyville, 17/1/20


I had been suffering from a virus for about a month when we left, so unusually for me, I actually slept on the daytime as well as the overnight flight. Three of the four flights had been scheduled to have the new QSuites seats, but unfortunately, both the DOH-JNB and JNB-DOH were swapped out at the last minute, which made the journey a bit less special, but I still slept and ate very well. The transit in Doha was a bit annoying, buses for both flights and a long wait to board the second bus at the gate. We landed at about 10 am, but must have squeezed in between the other arriving flights, as there was no one at all waiting in immigration - unheard of! This meant that we beat our luggage to the carousel, which as it turned out, raised an unexpected issue. Our three suitcases arrived promptly. We also take a sturdy cooler box, an essential piece of kit when taking 11 nights' worth of food around the desert. It usually arrives with the oversized items, however, it did not appear anywhere.  When I got to the Qatar lost luggage desk, she showed me a board with my name on, that someone must have been holding at the carousel, presumably well after we arrived there, as we had not seen it. The cooler box had not made the connection, unsurprising given the bus gates and was on the next flight. So, we duly provided our accommodation details and phone number, assured that we would be reunited that evening. This is the risk of having connecting flights.


Picking up the hire car was seamless, as usual. Unfortunately, however, Avis have changed the models they have in stock. We got a Nissan X-Trail which was fine, except that the rear windows do not fully go down, making it more difficult for back seat photography. The other option was a Kia Sportage, which we had in September and was the most uncomfortable car I have ever sat it, so I was not going to swap to that!


The next piece of planning that I had done was where to get lunch en route. As previously stated, the N14 is not very touristy. As we had plenty of time and inspired by @xelas last TR, we decided to pay a visit to Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens, as we have not been there for years. It is virtually en route and would provide secure parking and somewhere pleasant to sit and eat as well as have a short walk after a long flight, with the prospect of perhaps a few birds, for my BY, although the totally wrong time of day for this.


It was a lovely sunny day and a few other people were already gathering for lunch. We had just arrived, when the Qatar agent at the airport rang to reconfirm our address. Was it in Sandton? No. We were not staying in Johannesburg. I again spelt out the address and told her it was on the N14, well past Potchefstroom (the only place I could think of that she would have heard of). After refreshments, we had a wander around for about an hour, before getting back on the road.


49951585723_5e0bb59100_k.jpgJ19A0275a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49952087966_539f582edf_k.jpgJ19A0279a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49951585993_50ed0288c8_k.jpgJ19A0286a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49951586103_7a5c2cbcc6_k.jpgJ19A0306a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49952338207_532d05608e_k.jpgJ19A0310 by tdgraves, on Flickr


49952377677_584badffb3_k.jpgJ19A0315a by tdgraves, on Flickr


No Verreaux's eagles, but a very pleasant couple of hours and an excellent antidote to travelling 6000 miles.


There were no issues on the way and we went in to Delareyville to buy some snacks from a supermarket to eat later, as we were planning to get up early to get to the pan. It turned out that we were the only guests. Whilst I was unpacking, we received several more calls about the errant cooler box. Firstly, to confirm that it had arrived and where we were. By the time the couriers got hold of and realised where we were on a Friday night, they were not keen to deliver it and made numerous excuses, like "you said that you were in Potchefstroom". Eventually the boss rang back with the same accusations. I relayed events as they happened and they agreed that the cooler box would be delivered by 8 am the following day. I think that they did not want to drive 8 hours in the dark, which I can totally understand and the alternative of going to Upington spurred them into action.

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Day 2: Barberspan bird sanctuary, 18/1/20


Unfortunately, the weather was not in our favour as we left at 6 am. There was thick cloud cover and a few spots of rain. The pan is free to enter and no one else appeared to be around. There were no maps or information, but the GPS showed us the "roads". I think that this has the potential to be a great bird photography stop, as the tracks were largely close to the waters' edge and hence the birds. We saw 46 species in about 2.30 hours, most of which were pretty close, but photography was difficult in the gloom.


We had not been there long when the courier called with his ETA. I gave him some more precise instructions on how to find the B&B and called Jaco, the owner to expect him. The cooler box was safely in our room when we returned for breakfast!


I will not repost my photos here, as they are large and so slow at loading. I have now worked out how to use Flickr properly, but cannot be bothered to resize and reupload them all again. If you are interested, they are on my BY thread...




After breakfast, off to Upington.

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Day 2: Delareyville to Upington


49952633297_d74bff639c_k.jpgJ19A0499a by tdgraves, on Flickr


The journey was very easy and unlike the last trip, we arrived at a reasonable hour. Plenty of time to settle in, watch England beat South Africa in cricket on the TV (the OH) and have a wander around their verdant gardens whilst searching for birds (me), before a refreshing dip in the pool.


49952343726_fd63e819ba_k.jpgJ19A0500a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49952633637_53434e835f_k.jpgJ19A0506a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49952343971_b5319913cc_k.jpgJ19A0517a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49952633957_65a727b988_k.jpgJ19A0532a by tdgraves, on Flickr


A lovely meal in Cafe Zest in town, ready to get stocked up with supplies tomorrow and into the park....

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Hurrah! another  ktp trip report to keep the spirits up @Tdgraves

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That cheetah jumping over the water photo is amazing! You should really enter that one in a contest!


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Happy to see that you are back with a new TR, @Tdgraves! From one of our favourite location :).

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A wonderful start @Tdgraves. It is interesting that we were in Upington on the same day - you arriving for your safari and us flying out!


I certainly look forward to reading more and comparing your experiences to my own :)

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Lovely report and photographs @Tdgraves  As others, have said that jumping Cheetah shot is spectacular. 


Sorry to hear it has been such a long haul for your recovery, :( but at last you are now 'back in the saddle' 

Edited by wilddog
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Thanks @wilddog two weeks off with horrible viral symptoms and another six weeks of severe fatigue and myalgia. Luckily I have been able to have lots of half days and my week of annual leave when we were supposed to be in Extremadura, really helped.


I did send in the cheetah to the Africa geographic photo contest, but I seem to have more luck with birds...

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Day 3, Upington to KTP, evening drive, 19/1/20


After a refreshing nights' sleep, I actually felt better, hoorah! We had breakfast and then went to pay and collect our groceries from Pick'n'pay. It was a Sunday, so they had put through the wine on the previous day. Unfortunately, their red selection is not great and so I had intended to buy some from Woolworths, like last time. But I had forgotten it was Sunday and so it was either buy some in the park, or manage on white :wacko:. There were a few people in the shops, but mostly, they were in church. A quick stop in Kalahari mall to get fruit, veg and meat from Woolworths. In my viral state, I had not found my shopping list in the luggage, so we had to just hope for the best. The trip to the park was very quiet and the formalities brief. We had opted to only spend one night in Twee Rivieren in order to maximise our time in Nossob, so we did not really unpack, but just tried to organise the supplies a bit better. As we had arrived in good time, there was plenty of time for an evening game drive. We opted for the Nossob valley and planned the Auob for the morning drive. It was 34 degrees and I had the 5D.


First sighting was unusual for the KTP - butterflies...


49956285457_c27f1ed10e_k.jpg7T4A8642 by tdgraves, on Flickr


49952670632_1fc6538dea_k.jpgJ19A0560 by tdgraves, on Flickr 


There had clearly been rain, as there were some standing puddles and patches of flowers and flowering grass. And the springboks had started to lamb...


49955509453_4d5a0dfb8c_k.jpg7T4A8657a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49952372226_61c308e340_k.jpg7T4A8671a by tdgraves, on Flickr


Other game from the drive...


49951871988_eea30129f7_k.jpg7T4A8662a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49956296192_b7cf6122e6_k.jpg7T4A8654a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49956010111_40b6e1d631_k.jpg7T4A8653a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49951872263_47d4bb57fd_k.jpg7T4A8684a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49952372511_f4ca2af8f6_k.jpg7T4A8689a by tdgraves, on Flickr


beyond Kij Kij there was a small dam, that I haven't noticed before, I'm not sure how man made it was, but the wildlife certainly preferred it to the Kij Kij hole


49952662142_136548dd0f_k.jpg7T4A8696a by tdgraves, on Flickr


Soon, it was time to turn around and return to camp


49952662277_4359ce35be_k.jpg7T4A8736a by tdgraves, on Flickr


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Day 4, Twee Rivieren morning drive, 20/1/20


We would go up the lower Auob today, as later on, we would be transferring to Nossob, up the Nossob valley anyway. It was 14 degrees as we left and 28 by the time we returned. The dunes were quiet and it was still pretty dark when we saw this pair of thick knees


49956139048_d8b1d030a4_k.jpg7T4A8746a by tdgraves, on Flickr


The sun then started to come up...


49956640166_746d60428d_k.jpg7T4A8753a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49956139373_87e7586b92_k.jpg7T4A8757a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49956139528_0506375c14_k.jpg7T4A8759a by tdgraves, on Flickr


A jackal burst across the road with a stolen meal - we were expecting someone to be chasing it, but nobody else appeared


49956139693_2cadf2b179_k.jpg7T4A8770a by tdgraves, on Flickr


The OH then spotted this very well camouflaged owl


49956640776_565667cce2_k.jpg7T4A8772a by tdgraves, on Flickr


We got as far as Auchterlonie for a comfort break and decided we should turn back south again, as we needed to check out by 10am. We had only been driving back a few minutes, when we met another car coming north, following him


49956641031_c8135140a4_k.jpg7T4A8782a by tdgraves, on Flickr


Once he passed us, we turned around and drove in front, so that we could get him approaching us


49956925662_08a3cfbc4a_k.jpg7T4A8791a by tdgraves, on Flickr


and repeated the manoeuvre many times


49956641366_1d8c63c071_k.jpg7T4A8851a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49956140583_40b1efa773_k.jpg7T4A8902a by tdgraves, on Flickr


We decided to go ahead to the water hole, where he must be going to get a drink


49956641641_d5178f401c_k.jpg7T4A8953a by tdgraves, on Flickr


where he promptly decided to cross the road


49956641761_dfd53e7629_k.jpg7T4A8969a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49956642016_3157d8bacc_k.jpg7T4A8980a by tdgraves, on Flickr


and have a rest under a tree!


49956642161_7dd3430fe0_k.jpg7T4A8991a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49956141403_7d849b4b94_k.jpg7T4A8996a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49956926852_5d7bcb47f1_k.jpg7T4A9013a by tdgraves, on Flickr


not for long though and it seemed he was not thirsty - carrying on north up the road...


49956927597_89e4ed52d8_k.jpg7T4A9034a by tdgraves, on Flickr


and we turned back south again, where we saw a few birds


49956642476_280a818adb_k.jpg7T4A9043a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49956142148_64cfdf293d_k.jpg7T4A9044a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49956142648_8c57bd5e70_k.jpg7T4A9051a by tdgraves, on Flickr


and then it was time to check out.

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lovely lion sighting @Tdgraves

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Day 4, Transfer to Nososb, 20/1/20


It had climbed to 31 degrees when we left camp and was 42 by the time we arrived in Nossob, consequently, it was pretty quiet!! The first sighting was a huge herd of ostrich


49956643696_d144634ff1_k.jpg7T4A9055a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49956643936_a224c8582d_k.jpg7T4A9060a by tdgraves, on Flickr


The main game we saw was around the dam north of Kij Kij, which was bird heaven.


49956644076_978b57783f_k.jpg7T4A9090a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49956143443_22d14cfba3_k.jpg7T4A9126a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49960549471_3b1b5ade9e_k.jpg7T4A9081 by tdgraves, on Flickr


49956143758_646962820a_h.jpg7T4A9170a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49956929362_7ed2f0db47_k.jpg7T4A9173a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49956644881_ba68c21a02_k.jpg7T4A9219a by tdgraves, on Flickr


The rest of the drive was quite quiet


49956144218_c593c661aa_k.jpg7T4A9234a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49956144358_d4ea607a91_k.jpg7T4A9237a by tdgraves, on Flickr


finally at Rooikop, just outside of Nossob, this goshawk was lurking in the tree next to the water hole


49956927772_12cfa20d0b_k.jpg7T4A9247a by tdgraves, on Flickr


Time to check in and fire up the air conditioning!

Edited by Tdgraves
extra photo
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Day 4, Evening drive, Nososb, 20/1/20


It was still very hot (39 degrees), but we felt that we should go on a short drive - after the cricket had finished! We pootled north to Kwang, but there was not much about. Annoyingly the waterhole was overpumped, so most animals and birds were in the puddles behind the hole, putting them much further away from us. Unfortunately, this was repeated all over the park, so that previous favourite holes were a washout, literally! I don't know if it was intentional or a response to the drought and therefore extra use, but pretty much every waterhole we went to had an accompanying mud hole. There wasn't much to see, but it was nice to be back in Nossob.


49960381007_b371c89750_k.jpgJ19A0884 by tdgraves, on Flickr


No one even came to visit Cubitje Quap on the way back to camp, but the drive was made worthwhile when this beautiful hartebeest appeared and then crossed directly in front of us just before the camp gate.


49960098316_26165e1b08_k.jpg7T4A9314a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49959603233_054e7b833f_k.jpg7T4A9316a by tdgraves, on Flickr


I set up the camera on the stoop whilst we cooked the braai, getting used to the wifi controller, rather than a shutter release


49959615098_b5788d7edd_k.jpg7T4A9351 by tdgraves, on Flickr


But we soon had to retire inside, as we were swarmed with all sorts of insects, something that has never been an issue before. On subsequent nights we set up decoy lights away from the table and ate with the dimmest bulb that we could find!

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Peter Connan

I wonder what it is in Kgalagadi that so many lions have blind eyes? That was a great sighting.


The shot of the falcon passing the Gemsbok is fantastic. Magnificent timing!

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On 5/31/2020 at 12:29 PM, Tdgraves said:

when we were supposed to be in Extremadura


I lost out on a trip to Extremadura as well. Not really too bothered though as I think I'll be doing a lot more travel close to home for some months to come, and Spain is driveable. 

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Very enjoyable @Tdgraves. I love the dry desert background to all your shots, so much atmospheric than green grass. 

The other great thing about the desert is that all the wildlife comes to waterholes. 

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16 hours ago, Peter Connan said:

I wonder what it is in Kgalagadi that so many lions have blind eyes? That was a great sighting.


The shot of the falcon passing the Gemsbok is fantastic. Magnificent timing!

I’m not sure if we’ve seen another. The timing - just luck!

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Thanks @Tdgraves for a very enjoyable report so far - awesome photography as well.

I wonder how the male lion got his blind eye @Peter Connan - hunting animals or fighting or hereditary? Is it common in KTP?

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Day 5, Morning drive, Nososb, 21/1/20


We again decided to go north and it was 16 degrees as we left camp, I had the 7D today. Overall, it was a pretty quiet drive, but very enjoyable. We got as far as Laangklaas before turning back for camp. There are always birds though....


49960108746_7d3186779b_o.jpgJ19A0927a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49960391427_64651a29ba_o.jpgJ19A0933a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49960391617_502653613f_o.jpgJ19A0961a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49967279902_3da74a79dc_o.jpgJ19A0940 by tdgraves, on Flickr


There were more newborns


49960109316_6d411b0601_o.jpgJ19A0975a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49960392062_f03ea90b0c_o.jpgJ19A0980a by tdgraves, on Flickr


49960392262_0dd54d0a72_o.jpgJ19A0993a by tdgraves, on Flickr


And this lovely jackal portrait was courtesy of the OH, who was on the correct side of the car


49960833567_edc6786918_o.jpg7T4A9366 by tdgraves, on Flickr


It was 28 degrees by the time we got back for breakfast.

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Peter Connan
10 hours ago, Tdgraves said:

I’m not sure if we’ve seen another. The timing - just luck!


I have seen three of my own, and only one elsewhere (in Etosha). But I seem to recall seeing them regularly in Kgalagadi trip reports.

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