In December 2011 we decided to pay another visit to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Our last visit has been in late March 2007, the beginning of the dry season. We were unprepared for the rainy season, with its dramatic clouds and ferocious storms. This amazing ‘living desert’ can be either extremely dry or the rains and wind lash the land. The animals that live there are very hardy as they have to cope with a difficult environment.
The old Kalahari Gemsbok Park has been incorporated into the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was created in May 2000 when the governments of South Africa and Botswana joined their respective parks into one large park and formed the first transfrontier park in Africa. Visit http://www.sanparks.co.za/parks/kgalagadi/ to find out more about this park.
We stayed in the Wilderness Camps which are well appointed self-catering units that have no fences. Each one has a waterhole, carefully placed so that the residents of the camps can see the animals when they come to drink. The only people allowed are the visitors and an armed warden who looks after the units and carries a gun for protection when he visits the pumps to ensure that the underground water is being fed into the waterholes.
The days were very hot. The evenings would bring relief in the form of storm clouds and rain. In three days they measured 64 mm at Bitterpan. It rained so heavily that the road between Nossob and Twee Rivieren had to be closed.
Hyenas are regularly seen loping along the roads in the morning or early evening. This spotted hyena was unperturbed by us taking photos.
You will see lots of pale chanting goshawks in the park, either hiding at the base of trees or sitting on top of trees looking about for prey.
We entered the park during a sand storm. This lion was trying to get shelter behind a few trees.
The wind was strong and he was trying to keep the sand out of his eyes.
The rains formed puddles in the roads. This three banded plover was enjoying a refreshing bath. During the day the temperature was often in the high 30’s.
On the dry riverbed, near Urikaruus we saw lots of bat-eared foxes looking for insects to eat.
Social weavers’ nests are a common sight in the park.
This male ostrich was taking his chicks for a walk.
Steenbok are very shy. They don’t often stand still long enough for one to take a photo.
Red hartebeest are usually found in groups of about 25.
As we travelled to Bitterpan we watched the storm clouds gathering.
As its name suggests, the water is bitter and very salty. You cannot even use it to cook or make tea. Take along lots of drinking water when you visit this wilderness camp.
The evening brought a welcome storm after the extreme heat of the day.
We rested in the afternoon and then enjoyed the cooler evening overlooking the pan.
As the sun set, the sky turned many different colours.
This was one of many ‘little brown jobs’ that we saw during our visit to the Kgalagadi.
The next morning gemsbok had to wade through the water that had collected in the pan overnight.
This is typical of the trees found in the Kgalagadi. They provide shade and homes for many of the animals.
Gemsbok always take a long hard look at you before they turn their backs and walk away.
Ground squirrels are just some of the many smaller creatures that inhabit the park.
This martial eagle was high up and far away. They are the largest of the African eagles and feed on birds, snakes, hares, baboons and small buck.
After the good rains many of the animals had dropped their young. Here are some red hartebeest with their calves.
While we were staying at Groot Kolk we took a drive to Union’s End, the most northerly point of the park.
Groot Kolk is known as ‘the jewel of the Kgalagdi’ because of all the animals and many lions and leopards that are found there.
There is always plenty of action at the Groot Kolk water hole. These wildebeest are enjoying a social gathering at the hole.
These young wildebeest were jostling to get to the water first.
This lioness was sleeping in the soft sand at the edge of the road near Groot Kolk. She was not pleased to be woken when we tried to pass.
We disturbed her afternoon nap.
If you are lucky you will see many of these wily black backed jackals.
This jackal was hiding in the water, waiting for some unsuspecting springbok to come for a drink. Only his ears and one eye could be seen.
This secretary bird came to drink and was startled by the jackal.
This kori bustard walked straight past the baby springbok. They have a very arrogant way of walking. It is the heaviest bird capable of flight.
Before the rains we had not seen any baby animals, but after the rains there were many, such as this baby springbok.
Although gemsbok (oryx) can go without water for days, they were enjoying the water brought by the good rains.
The road from Groot Kolk to Nossob is white sand.
The Kgalagdi is known for its pink dunes.
This young springbok calf was sheltering from the hot sun in its mother’s shadow.
This young male ostrich was proudly showing off his feathers.
Kori bustard’s blend in with the veld. Their colouring makes them difficult to see unelss they are moving nearby.
We saw many male ostriches walking about with their young.
This juvenile martial eagle was sitting still on the branch of a tree. He did not move even though many people stopped to take photos.
The spotted eagle owl was been chased away by a pale chanting goshawk.
If you look carefully you will see the spotted eagle owl sulking in the bushes. They blend in so easily that you will not be able to see them unless they move about.
Our stay in the wonderful ‘living desert’ was over. It is a long way to travel from Durban, but well worth the effort.