Kgalagadi Dec’13 – Desolation and Wonder

It is the month of December and what has become standard practice, Kgalagadi time.  My son and I have made the journey North from Somerset West to KTP more than 12 times in the last 5 years.  The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park has its lovers and its haters.  The KTP which straddles the South African and Botswana borders lies in the area called the Kalahari.  Kalahari means “dry land” or thirst land” and this should also be a clue as to why some people don’t like the park.  Being a desert, it is a land of extremes with extreme low temperatures at night during the winter and extreme heat during the summer months.  Travelling on the heavily corrugated roads in the park can be bone jarring at times, but when the graders have done their work, it is a pleasure again.  Only for a few days though, then the roads are back to their worst again.

Why do we love the KTP?  Well firstly, once you move 10km away from the main camp of Twee Rivieren, you have no phone signal so you are officially OFF LINE 🙂 and time to relax and think.  I love the red sand dunes and dry river beds which are also your main roads.  Staying at the wilderness camps you can go from the deepest sleep to wide awake in a milli- second when a lion roars close by or a Leopard growls next to your unit.

The Leopard N!xau photographed in the early morning near Grootkolk in the Kgalagadi.

The Leopard N!xau photographed in the early morning near Grootkolk in the Kgalagadi.

Staying at the wilderness camps you can go from the deepest sleep to wide awake in a milli second when a lion roars close by or a Leopard growls next to you unit.

I love the fact that you can drive and  not see any large animals for hours and then all of a sudden KTP dishes up a fantastic sighting like a Cheetah hunt, Leopard on the calcrete ridge, Pale chanting Goshawks hunting next to a Honey badger or a Lanner Falcon hunting sand grouse at the water holes.

A Lanner Falcon eating a Burchell's Sandgrouse at a waterhole in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

A Lanner Falcon eating a Burchell’s Sandgrouse at a waterhole in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

You have to be alert and look, really look at the trees, the calcrete ridges, grass lands, animal behaviour and KTP will reveal itself to you.  The more often you go the more you get to know the behaviour and movement of the animals, their den position, nest sites and best waterholes and times to see specific animal species.  You know when you hear the call of the Sandgrouse as the come in to land at the waterholes, that the Lanner Falcons won’t be long in launching the first attack.  You know that when you hear the Jackals calling at night that a predator is in the vicinity.

So what is photography like in the KTP.  It is NOT the Chobe of Botswana or the Kruger National Park in terms of sightings and volume of images you can come away with.  It can be very hard work to get quality images.  I have spoken to some people at the end of the day and according to then they saw nothing, when I have 800 plus images of a variety of birds and some mammals on the same stretch of road.  When you are presented with a scene you have to work it and get the shots before moving one.  You also can’t be afraid to keep on driving and looking for interesting sightings.  We did around 180km a day on our recent stay.  This sounds a lot, but if you break to up in the morning and afternoon sessions it is only a 45km drive out and back to camp.

In summer photography time is also very limited as the gates open at 05:30am and you have until about 09:00am before the light is too harsh and the temperatures start soaring.  The afternoon sessions we started at 04:00pm and returned to camp at 07:30pm.  You should also keep in mind that your large raptors like Tawney Eagles, Bateleurs and various Vultures frequent the waterholes in the middle of the day and my best Cheetah hunts started around midday.  So if you can find a tree near a waterhole like Polentswa or Dalkieth you could be rewarded  with some nice sightings.

Sunset near Grootkolk in the Kgalagadi.

Sunset near Grootkolk in the Kgalagadi.

tbc………

http://www.cnpsafaris.com

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