This post continues our journey through the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in South Africa ( and Botswana and Namibia technically). We had just eaten our lunch at one of the picnic spots in the park and we continued on our slow drive towards our night halt, the Kalahari tented camp.
Interestingly the tented camp wasn’t in our itinerary originally. We were slated to stay in the Mata mata rest camp, but due to it being fully booked for the night the Kalahari safaris company booked us into the more expensive Kalahari tented camp at no extra cost!! More on the camp later.
As I mentioned in my previous post, this park is great for seeing and photographing raptors. The sparse vegetation and lack of the teeming crowds of the other African national parks make photography a great pleasure. Among raptors, its very difficult to photograph owls as they are inactive during the day and sit deep among the branches. It takes a good experienced guide to know the places where they sit frequently and Thys showed us one such magnificent creature.
Our next sighting of the day was a group of giraffes with a baby giraffe grazing peacefully among a group of bushes. I have seen giraffes many times before in Kenya and Tanzania, but I like these creatures, ungainly and graceful at the same time. Again, I have to emphasise the pleasure of being the only vehicle around to enjoy watching them in peace and not having to jostle around for space. After some time the giraffes moved away into the bushes and we continued on.
Being in the Kalahari you just can’t ignore the yellow billed southern hornbill, you see these birds frequently throughout the park and I couldn’t help but stop and photograph them every time. They are not so afraid of the vehicles and don’t fly away till we get very close to their perch. This one refused to do even that and we passed right under him.
As we moved on we heard a strange noise which we had heard before but couldn’t place it. Thys said it was the sound made by the Kori bustard, which for the record is the largest flying bird in the world. We had seen them on the previous day too but I managed to catch this one all puffed up and calling out.
Thys and Maureen were getting more agitated than us that we hadn’t seen a big cat yet. Honestly I had seen lions, cheetahs and leopards galore in the Serengeti and this trip for me was more about the one on one with the creatures rather than ticking them off a list.
After some time Thys spotted something near a waterhole and turned towards it. We saw two tall antelope walking away from us. They were the Greater Kudu, one of the tallest antelope in Africa. I was disappointed at not having gotten decent photos, Thys asked me to wait and took the vehicle around to the other side and we got to see the pair in their full glory having a drink. The symmetric spiral horns are really a piece of art and it was a real high for me getting these photos.
Another bird that is very common in the park is a swallow tailed bee eater. This bird like all bee eaters is very swift and doesn’t sit at a place for long. Off roading is not allowed and not desirable too, hence I had to wait for one of these tiny birds to be in range of my 300mm. Thankfully one of them obliged and I got my photo.
As camp approached we were informed by Thys and Maureen that they won’t be staying there in the tented camp but at the Mata mata camping grounds a short distance away and asked us if we wanted them to cook the meal and leave or we would do it ourselves. A cold meal in the cold desert is not very appetising and we decided to cook our own meal there.
The Kalahari tented camp unlike the main rest camps ( Twee, Nossob and Mata mata) is unfenced. There is just a 2 feet high compound wall between your tent and the wild. So we were advised not to cook out in the open barbecue area as it attracted jackals ( maybe lions!!) and it was illegal to move out of the allotted tent area at night. All this was very scary and very exciting.
As we were thinking about all the information just provided to us Thys pointed out to a Gabar Goshawk, a falcon like raptor hunting on the ground close to the road. We had seen these birds perched high up in the trees till now and I hadn’t got a clean shot at photographing one. This was an opportunity not to be missed.
I was very happy with photos for the day and we reached the tented camp. Each tented area had two tents, one sleeping area with connected bath and a separate kitchen tent just across, 8 feet away. I was already picturing jackals jumping on me when I cross between the two tents!! We took our luggage and the raw food for dinner and breakfast with us and said bye to our guides for the night. Hopefully we would see them in the morning!!
The main tent had a twin comfortable and clean beds with a window which could be zipped up overlooking a waterhole. The kitchen tent had more utensils and cooking equipment than my kitchen at home, all spick and span.Really a impressive place in the middle of the Kalahari. I normally don’t allot too much space to a hotel, but this one deserves it!
Just outside the boundary wall of our tent was the residence of a Yellow Mongoose and it popped up to see who the neighbours for a night were.
As the sunset, the feeling of being out in the kalahari with a cup of coffee watching the sky change colours is amazing. We turned on the lights made our dinner and had it in the kitchen cum dining area itself, lest we invite unnecessary attention.
At night we could hear the jackals howl close by and a few roars in the distance ( Thankfully!!) at dawn. As we walked out in the morning we startled a jackal sniffing around and both parties ran for cover. After making and eating a simple breakfast we watched the plains where a herd of wildebeest were foraging. Soon Thys and Maureen arrived and we said our goodbyes to the amazing camp and to our neighbour mongoose.
Just outside our camp a blissful ground squirrel was nibbling away at a discarded piece of bread totally ignoring our presence. I got a good photo of this usually timid creature and we set off for our last camp, Nossob.
Nossob was the farthest we would venture into the Kalahari and where Thys would finally be happy at showing us Lions. But that is topic for another post, for another day as this one is already too long.