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Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park covers the area of northwestern South Africa from southwestern Botswana to the southeastern edge of Namibia.

Previously called the Kalahari Gemsbok Park for the South African portion, it still lives up to that name - Gemsbok are commonly sighted. This slate tells of the experience we had on our May 2015 visit.

Gemsbok

At the first waterhole north of our entry point at Twee Rivieren, we encountered a herd of Gemsbok; beautifully composed and always attentive - a thing to be appreciated throughout our visit.

Gemsbok (Orynx) are endemic to the region. A unique characteristic is that female horns are longer than the male's.

Lone Gemsbok bulls patrol their territories while female and non-dominant male herds move and graze between them, along with Springbok and/or Blue Wildebeest and now and then, with Rooi Hartebeest.

Gemsbok drink their morning fill at the Kalahari Tented Rest Camp watering hole.

Springbok

Dainty Springbok often present in huge herds of over 200 and as individual territorial males. These lone males retain their territories for mating opportunities which, we are told, tolerate drinking in their area by other lone males and are allowed to mate with herd females as they move through.

Springbok herds organise themselves so they can monitor all directions and sleep in a laager formation to guard from predators.

Of the herds we saw, one stood out for its sheer numbers and age variety. The young males were head butting each other and there was some "pronking" with the hair on their backs standing up vertically and the fur around their butts all fluffed up.

Resting herd and lone territorial male Springbok. They have very good water retention efficiency and during the dry season, are able to get enough from the plants they eat.

The Predators

The park has numerous feline predators. We were lucky to witness a cheetah family in pursuit and a single lioness resting under a tree - a ranger informed us that the rest of the pride had moved off the previous day. It was also a privilege to hear the roars from a distant lone male lion while spending the night at the Kalahari Tent Rest Camp.

Four cheetah cubs follow their mother while stalking three Springbok

The sequence below shows our view of a cheetah pursuit...

Cheetahs leave the shade in the pursuit of Springbok.

We witnessed this hunt as we were heading out of the park on our last day. It was a supreme bonus on top of a wonderful visit.

Near the Kalahari Tented Rest Camp, a Black Backed Jackal trotted over the road in front of us then paced the car at about 30kph for the next few hundred metres where it landed in some shade and lay down to survey the scene. We were to see many more of these small dog-like predators. One even came right up to our tent and stopped by for about 10 minutes while we sipped tea on the landing. Soon, it trotted off in its characteristic highly energetic norm.

A Black Backed Jackal slows to a walk, alert to possible prey.

On another afternoon at the same camp we'd been watching a lioness lazing in the shade of a tree at the far side of the valley and decided to take a nap because it looked like it had settled in. Of course, when we surfaced, she had crossed the dry river bed to resettle about 50m away.

Our single sighting of a lioness about 50 metres from our rest camp tent.

Kamqua watering hole

Situated half way between Mata Mata (Kalahari Tented Rest Camp) and Twee Revieren lies the Kamqua watering hole which has a welcome picnic spot and where we seemed to have some luck with our animal spotting.

This Spotted Hyena was one of many species we saw at the Kamqua watering hole

On our first arrival, two Spotted Hyena appeared out of the bush and galloped towards the waterhole. The smaller (male?) was shy and turned back into the shade of a distant tree while the larger (female?) continued doggedly en route to the water giving the buck in its path a wide girth.

Activity around this waterhole included Hyena, Red Hartebeest, Blue Wildebeest, Gemsbok, Springbok, Squirrels and Giraffe.

Giraffe

Large grey camel-thorn, a thorny delicacy for this giraffe.

A herd of 9 or more grazed on the trees in the distance constantly moving. We got a close up view the next morning as a solitary individual paced down the dry river bed.

Giraffe looking beautiful against the aridity of the Kalahari.

Other buck

Blue Wildebeest were common, often as loners near Gemsbok or Springbok herds or in herds of their own. One particular individual seemed to have lost his identity because he was always seen as one of a herd of Gemsbok.

The recurring pattern of single males and breeding herds was also found for the Red Hartebeest. Apparently the name Hartebeest was thought to refer to the heart shaped curve of the horns but the accepted theory now is that it comes from the Dutch word hert which means deer in Dutch and beest meaning beast. The term hartebeest was used by the early Boers who thought the animals looked like a deer.

Red Hartebeest herd eating ground for essential salts.

Finally, the Steenbok, a loner: The three we saw included two males with their little horns and a hornless female.

Wildebeest and Steenbok.

The smaller things...

Meerkats on patrol.

We had hours of entertainment provided by the smaller species. A special highlight was an unprovoked attack by a Cape Ground Squirrel on a Cape Cobra. It was all over in an instant but we were able to capture the snake in cobra-posture immediately after the attack.

Yellow mongoose, Slender mongoose, Cape ground squirrels and the Cape cobra. Cobras apparently occur in various colour patterns.

The winged ones...

Kgalagadi is a bird watcher's paradise. Variety of species is in the hundreds. The most obvious is the ostrich, followed closely by the Kori Bustard. There are so many beautiful birds that it's hard to do them justice.

Dark plumaged males escort a rather drab female. The males do the family protection, nesting and child rearing.

The commonly spotted Kori Bustard is the largest flying bird native to Africa. Spending most of the time alone on the ground, we were surprised one morning when we encountered a pair alongside two other loners. This is consistent behaviour according to references checked.

At 9 each morning when we happened to be near a waterhole, flocks of Sand Grouse performed aerobatics in formation with noisy accompaniment... We missed them twice!

From top left, clockwise: The Kori Bustard, the Secretary Bird, Namaqua Sand Grouse, Tawny Eagle, Northern black Korhaan and a Crimson Breasted Shrike

Driving north on the Nossop road, birds of prey adorned the tops of many trees. After identifying a majestic Martial Eagle on our first morning, equally impressive Tawny Eagles were added to the check list. The less impressive abundant Kalahari Pale Chanting Goshawk reoccurred frequently.

The ubiquitous Kalahari Pale Chanting Goshawk affectionately referred to as the "Kalahari Hoender (Chicken)"
Sociable Weavers colonise many trees throughout the park

Our tracks

The park is heavily subscribed so, because we were late to book, we found ourselves having to travel quite long distances. The brochure says 3 1/2 hours between Mata Mata and Twee Rivieren but we took about 6 hours each trip. The roads are adequate and the little all-wheel drive we hired did well. Its extra hight was often a blessing. We did get three acacia thorn punctures which caused a bit of angst... All fixed at Mata Mata camp.

Not a single car passed...

We only stayed at two of the many camps, Twee Rivieren and the Kalahari Tented Rest Camp near Mata Mata. The tented camp was our favourite with its direct interaction with the park - no fences. Even the birds were friendly!

The tent and views.

Two birds made their presence felt more prominently than the many others; the white crowned sparrow weaver and the familiar chat. Unfortunately we didn't get a shot of the hyper active chat because it seldom sat still. They followed us from camp to camp!

Some of the camp fauna: a lone springbok, a sparrow weaver, our jackal visitor and Gemsbok in the dawn sunshine..

A great place to visit!

Created By
John Osborn
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Credits:

All photos by John and Elsje

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