A Trip to South Africa, including the Kgalagadi - April/May 2009
After an overnight flight from London to Johannesburg we then caught another plane to Upington, a town about 250km from the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Reserve. At Upington we hired a 4x4 vehicle and then drove to Twee Rivieren, the most southerly camp in the reserve, where we stayed for the night.
24th April. Next morning we set off for Nossob. On the way we saw a cheetah sitting on a sand dune. Unfortunately it was too far off for decent photographs but it looked very majestic against the skyline.
Shortly afterwards we came across a steenbok with the longest horns I have ever seen on one of these little creatures. He was magnificent and posed beautifully for photographs.
Further along we saw a mole snake. The roads had recently been graded and there were banks rising to nearly 2 feet at the sides of the road and, as it was of soft sand, some of the snakes had a problem getting off the road. We watched it for over half an hour and each time it got half way up the bank, instead of just moving up, it slid sideways (its natural movement) and then slid down the bank again. Eventually it turned and moved across the road where it found a slightly less steep spot and it disappeared into grass at the side of the road.
We also saw lots of general game, in particular gemsbok (oryx), wildebeest, springbok and red hartebeest. Ground squirrels were also very cute and playful.
Nossob is a quaint, fairly small camp with a camp site which was just behind our chalets. It has a waterhole which is overlooked by a hide. At this hide there is a refresh cam which you can see on the Kruger Park website and you can visit the hide at any time of the day or night.
Nossob hide showing the cam and light and a white stork we saw there
25th April. We left camp early, heading in a northerly direction and, after going only 5 kms or so, saw three cars ahead of us, driving slowly in our direction and following two magnificent black maned Kalahari lions.
They walked past our vehicle and were so close I could almost have touched them. After they passed by we turned round and joined the other cars, following them back towards Nossob, for about 3 - 4 kms before they turned off the road and went and lay down.
Scent marking ...
Later that afternoon we took a short drive from the camp and saw a small puff adder (about 15 inches long) on the road. It was also having problems getting off the road after the grading. We continued driving and then turned round and started returning in the direction of the camp. I saw a black backed jackal with what looked like a snake in its mouth and when we approached were told by some people who had been watching that the jackal had killed a small puff adder!! Presumably this was the same snake we had seen earlier - I didn't realise jackals would take such a dangerous snake but this is what happened.
Later that night we heard that lions were just outside the camping site so quickly walked there and, sure enough, there were 7 lions only a few meters from the perimeter fence. They stayed for around 10 to 15 minutes before slowly moving away. Apparently they had been at the Nossob waterhole a short time before. We then went to the hide, hoping they might visit the waterhole again but were disappointed. However we did hear the two males we had seen earlier in the day, roaring a few times in the distance. Four black backed jackals were constantly wandering around the waterhole area and they started calling when the lions roared - quite an impressive sound!
26th April. We left Nossob next morning, en route for the Kalahari Tented camp near Mata Mata which is close to the Namibian border. After a couple of hours we saw three cars in front of us and realised there was a dead gemsbok lying in the middle of the road. We then saw one lion and the top of the head of a second - this one was lying down in a sand dune and wasn't really visible. We eventually managed to get past the kill - not easy as the road wasn't very wide at this point and we had two wheels off the road and up the graded slope in trying to pass.
We had a superb tent in the Kalahari Tented camp - it was the end tent so we had no one in front of us and the views were wonderful. There is a waterhole which was visited by springbok, wildebeest and ostriches. The night stars were quite incredible with the milky way a white blur across the sky - absolutely stunning. The tent was up on stilts and during that night we had jackals calling right next to the canvas walls where we were trying to sleep!
Everywhere you go in the Kalahari you see huge nests which are home to many little birds - they are called Sociable Weavers. They even build these nests on the telegraph poles on the main roads leading up to the Kgalagadi. Here is a picture of one of these nests and also a close up with a weaver poking its head out.
27th April. There is no phone reception anywhere in the Kgalagadi, other than at Twee Rivieren and, as we wanted to make phone contact with our family, decided to drive down there and back. It was a long drive but we were rewarded with some good general game sightings, including another Cape Cobra and a large puff adder. Giraffe also seem to like the area around Mata Mata and we saw quite a lot of them. We also saw a black shouldered kite with a kill - a mouse or rat.
There are also a large number of secretary birds and kori bustards in the area -
and we saw a few Black Chested Snake Eagles..
When we were close to the Tented camp we were fortunate to see a collared cheetah which had just killed a springbok. It was lying down under a tree and after it got its breath back we watched it go to the kill and pull it back under the shade of the tree before beginning to eat. A black backed jackal waited patiently nearby and a group of gemsbok had a good look at what was going on. One of the gemsbok had a deformed horn.
When we got back to camp I heard a Pearl Spotted owlet calling and, using my binoculars, managed to spot it in a nearby tree - nearby but the light was poor so no pics. We also saw a crimson breasted shrike which is a beautiful little bird. It was in a tree right next to our tent.
28th April. Next morning we drove south from the Tented camp to a picnic spot which was the meeting point for our visit to !Xaus, a private lodge situated on land owned by Bushmen. On the way we saw 5 bat eared foxes - as these are nocturnal that was a very good sighting.
The Mier and Komani San/Bushmen communities each received 25000 hectares in the south west of the Kgalagladi reserve after a land claim settlement in 1999. The chalets at !Xaus are situated on a hill overlooking a pan with a waterhole at the end nearest to the lodge and we saw ostriches and gemsbok a few times during our two night stay. We went on a "Pan Drive" late in the afternoon - this was really a sundowner drive and the late afternoon skies were absolutely stunning.
After returning to the lodge for dinner, we went out for a further two hour drive and were lucky enough to see a brown hyena plus bat eared foxes and other animals, such as spring hares, steenbok, gemsbok, black backed jackals and ostriches.
29th April. In the morning we went for a walk with a Mier guide who showed us various plants and explained their uses as well as some of the animal and insect life in the area - things you wouldn't see or understand when driving around.
We also walked to where three Bushmen were doing craftwork which was on sale in the lodge's gift shop. They were all lovely, gentle people - tiny in stature at around 5 feet - and we all had a go at using one of their bow and arrows! When communicating with each other they speak a language which consists of a lot of "clicks" but they also spoke Afrikaans which my husband and I can understand so we were able to speak with them. Later that afternoon the youngest of the Bushmen came on our Pan Drive and spotted the game from the seat on the bonnet of the lodge vehicle.
Here is a picture of the Bushman who joined us on our Pan Drive and also one of the Lodge from across the Pan.
30th April. We left !Xaus next morning and drove back to Upington for the return flight to Johannesburg after a wonderful week in the Kalahari. We will definitely return .....