Monday, 28 July 2014

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – Part 6

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (Part 6) – May/June 2014

As always we rise early when on a ‘safari’ type vacation or photography shoot and more so on these last few mornings as we were on our first trip to the stunning Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in South Africa’s, Northern Cape.  The lions and the Black-backed Jackals were, as they had been on previous nights, very ‘vocal’. Would we see them this morning?  My wife and I discuss the possibilities as spotting Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park lion is a highlight of anybodies trip to the park and we excitedly agreed the roars we heard in the night and very early that morning came from the general direction in which we were to travel today.
This morning we were leaving behind the ‘Kalahari Tented Camp’ and surrounding area, where we had spent the last 3 wonderful days and nights, for today we were heading to the ‘Nossob’ rest camp a bit further North into the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. A quick breakfast and with the car packed we went through our normal routine of getting our ‘permit’ at the Kalahari Tented Camps reception desk and set off for Nossob.
The sun was just beginning to creep over the sandy dunes of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and we had only been travelling a few minutes down the sandy tracks when my wife spotted him, a magnificent specimen of a male Kgalagadi Lion (Panthera leo) almost blending into the grass as the early morning sunlight bathed both him and the dune grass in a light orange glow. He was almost certainly the male lion we’d heard the previous night and earlier that morning just before daybreak. We tried to manoeuvre to get a better picture of this ‘king’ of the Kgalagadi Transfontier Park but unfortunately we were unable to do so as we had car ‘traffic’ build up behind us and we had a long way to go over the dune roads to Nossob Camp.

Lion (Panthera leo)-Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Kgalagadi Lion (Panthera leo) bathed in early morning sunshine.
Due to the distance we had to travel and the condition of the roads (sandy river beds) in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park we didn’t want to waste any time so we pressed on down the sandy river bed road of the Auob river heading for our first stop which was the ‘Dikbaardskolk Picnic Area’ which we later found out would be a welcome break. To get there we had to travel south for about 50 km to the ‘Upper’ dune road turning.  Then a further 50km on the upper dune road which traverses across the dunes between the Auob and the Nossob dry river beds.

Photograph of a female Northern-black-Korhaan-Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Northern-black-Korhaan (Afrotis afraoides) – Female on the ‘Upper Dune’ road
As we hit the ‘Upper dune’ road the soft rutted sand of the Auob turned to deep hard ‘rutted’ course sand which when travelling at a modest 30km an hour was enough to ‘rattle’ the fillings in your teeth loose. About 3km along this road we sighted, strolling in front of us, a male and female Northern Black Korhaan’s, (Afrotis afraoides) the more colourful male unfortunately disappeared into the dune grass but the female gave us some great photographic opportunities. Continuing along the ‘road from hell’ it wasn’t only the ‘fillings’ that were being affected ‘bladders’ were also telling us to hurry along to the ‘Dikbaardskolk Picnic Area’. Ant-eating-Chat (Myrmecocichla formicivora) were common place along the road as well as Fawn-coloured Larks (Mirafra africanoides) and of course the ever present Pale Chanting Goshawks (Melierax canorus). The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park never had such a welcome sight as the turn into the ‘Dikbaardskolk Picnic Area’ and an end to the ‘Road from Hell’ or the Upper Dune Road.  The time was already approaching midday and we had travelled just the 100km since leaving the Khalahari Tented Camp at 7:30am that morning.

Photography of Dikbaardskolk Picnic Area-Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Dikbaardskolk Picnic Area -Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – South Africa
‘Dikbaardskolk Picnic Area’ was in a spotless condition and the toilets were well stocked with hand soap and toilet paper, a credit to Sanparks as basically we were at least 50 km from the nearest main camp Nossob (our destination for the next few days). In the Kruger
National Park at picnic areas Chacma Baboons (Papio ursinus) and Vervet Monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) tend to be a problem as people often feed these wild animals, who in turn become aggressive and a nuisance around food. DO NOT FEED WILD ANIMALS ..ok rant over, here at ‘Dikbaardskolk Picnic Area’ the problem wasn’t a primate but a bird, the ‘Sociable Weaver’ (Philetairus socius). These birds were everywhere, perching on your head as you sat to try and have a bite of a bun or sandwich. They even tried to take the bun from my wife’s hand as she ate. Amazing little birds though as they were followed around by their ever hungry chicks.
After our short break we pressed on towards Nossob rest camp, now on the dry sandy river bed of the ‘ephemeral’ Nossob River (they only flow for a short period and then only in really good rainy seasons). The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park really is diverse and good sightings of Black-shouldered kite (Elanus axillaris) who were busily feeding on one of the many rodents that inhabit the park. Herds of Sprinkbok (Elanus axillaris) and Gemsbok (Oryx gazella) were in great number all the way to Nossob Camp. We arrived at the camp after travelling the last 50 km at about 3pm in the afternoon and checked in to our chalet, unpacked the car which started our next leg of our trip to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Nossob Camp.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park - Part 5

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (Part 5) – May June 2014 – Kalahari Tented Camp (Day 2)

For those of you who have been following our winter trip to the arid Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in South Africa’s far North West, you will know that this stunningly beautiful and wild wilderness is certainly living up to its reputation as one of the great true wilderness parks still left in South Africa.
As the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park at Twee Rivieren (its southern most gateway) is over 250 km from any form of light pollution and we were 160 km further North, it was a great opportunity for me to try, for the first time, some astrophotography.  I had done some research on this aspect of photography with respect to equipment and settings for the camera, location of the celestial bodies and the phase of the moon as any form of major light pollution in the sky would have negative effects on the outcome of the photograph. I set out to take a photograph of the Milky Way over the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park somewhere and luckily the elements that I couldn't control aligned quite nicely. You can see the result here.
The 'Milky Way' over the 'Kalahari Tented Camp'
taken from our tent
I think it turned out quite well even if I say so myself. Now our 2nd full day in the Kalagadi Transfrontier Park again saw us up, and ready to get our permit to exit the camp by 7-30am (earliest time you can get your permit in June). We were this morning going a little further south to the places we had missed on our way to the camp a couple of days ago namely Dertiende Boorgat (13th Borehole) and  Veertiende  Boorgat (14th Borehole). These waterholes had been well documented as waterholes with a lot of possible ‘action’ in the Kgaladadi Transfrontier Park.
We had heard in the night, as we did the previous night, roars from a male lion, which echoed loud and long into the cold, still night. So it wasn’t much of a surprise that after only 10 minutes out of camp we came across, walking along the top of the dune a fine specimen of what, no doubt, we had been hearing the previous night and early morning, a large male Kalahari Black-maned lion, a beast many people come to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park to see. Much to our frustration its was not a good photographic opportunity as there were also 3 cars following us and the lion was moving quite quickly through the desert scrub.

We moved slowly on to the that mornings destinations, along the dry sandy river bed of the ‘Auob river’ plenty of birds in the camel thorns, especially prominent were the Southern Pale Chanting Goshawks (Melierax canorus) affectionately known as the ‘Pirates of the Kalahari’ 
Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk
Southern Pale Chanting
until eventually we reached the 13th Borehole. We parked up ready as always for any serious action but we didn’t get or see anything of great interest but 
still a lot of birds coming and going to the waterhole as well as herds of Wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) and Gemsbok.(Oryx gazella). 

We moved on to the 14th Borehole which was much the same. After an hour or so we decided to head back to camp for lunch. After lunch and short snooze we set off for the main camp in the area, Mata Mata which was about 3 km from where we were staying at the ‘Kalahari Tented Camp’.  There are 3 main camps in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and Mata Mata is one of those.

Yellow Mongoose
'Mata Mata' Rest Camp
On entering the camp we noticed a ‘troop’ or ‘band of yellow mongoose going about their daily business. Scurrying between the shrubs always on the lookout for danger and of course food.  They are so entertaining that we sat and watched them for a while. We then proceeded to the border post between South Africa and Namibia situated in the Mata Mata camp.
You are able to cross into Namibia (on foot) from the Kgalagadi
My wife and I crossing into Namibia
Transfrontier Park without passports and or ID as about 200m on the Namiban side of the border is a small farm stall/shop where you can buy tourist type trinkets, frozen meat, food and deliciousssssss Namibian home baked rusks (a type of biscuit we get here in Southern Africa).

On crossing back into South Africa we though we would spend the last hour of daylight slowly driving from Mata Mata to the ‘Sitzas’ waterhole which was about 10 km from the camp. We were rewarded with a sighting of a cheetah crossing the sandy road in front of us but unfortunately disappearing over the dunes with no opportunity to photograph this magnificent Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park big cat. This would be our last night in the Kalahari Tented Camp as tomorrow we would head further north into the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and the ‘Nossob Camp’.