MIKE & MARGARET AT SOUTH LUANGA BUSH CAMPSPosted on the 12th October 2012
KGALAGADI IN LATE SEPTEMBER
We decided to go to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park via Springbok due to the road work reports. This route is 102 km longer than the route via Calvinia, but the latter apparently had as many as 22 stop-and goes.
We spent our first night at Kamieskroon Hotel, a real small town hotel, with great service and food. I would certainly suggest that this is the place to go for the flower season in 2013 - more central to the flowers and a lovely atmosphere. I think I should stop watching birds and start watching flowers, as I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn! During our late afternoon walk we saw a group of Suricates absorbing the late afternoon sun. Visit www.kamieskroonhotel.comand have a look at the photography courses that they offer.
Our next night was spent at Malopo Lodge where everything was in “rep en roer” for the trail run of the Land Speed Record at Hakskeenpan. Read all about it at www.bloodhoundssc.com The BLOODHOUND SSC crew will try and achieves a World Land Speed Record of 1,000mph.
On Saturday morning it was an early rise and it started off well with our first tick for the day, five European Bee–eaters about 40km before Tweerivieren Camp. We also spotted a Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl in a tree, and when we looked closely we discovered that it was still sitting on top of it’s prey: a genet.
As always, we received a warm welcome at the Tweerivieren Reception. We decided to drive via Kij Kij to Urikaruus as the road is now open. We arrived at Urikaruus, warmly welcomed by Eric. Although rather hot, we still managed to see two pairs of Crimson-breasted Shrikes, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Cape Crow, a pair a Secretarybirds that came in for a drink and a bath and lots of Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters. We also saw 4 species of doves, Common House-Martin, Marico Flycatcher, Black-chested Prinia and Green-winged Pytilia. The normal daily routine is the doves (hamburger patties) decending on the water hole with the Lanner Falcons dive-bombing them.
It was Sunday and we travelled via the Dune road towards Nossob, where we spent the next 2 nights. We could see that the veld had burnt and therefore did not expect to find many animals. We did, however manage to see lots of birds of prey and Red-crested and Northern Black Korhaan, Rollers, Monotonous, Fawn-coloured and Sabota Larks, Ant-eating Chat and more Scrub-Robins.
We got to Nossob and were very disappointed to be told that the waterhole has had no water for the last 4 days. Apparently the lions have damaged the pipes, but, the more we enquired about the lack of water, the more answers we got from the staff (too many visitors, pump broken, etc) ?? Can it really take them 4 days to fix a pipe, yes I know they had to cope with a fire as well, but ………… ??? In the meantime animals are congregating at the water hole in a hope that some water will be coming soon. This made us feel terribly guilty using water for whatever reason. Taking all of this into consideration I am not sure how a further 100 beds could be considered/approved for Nossob?
Monday was Heritage Day, a public holiday in South Africa and of course National Braai Day! The plan was to drive all the way to Unions End, but we were told that the last waterhole with water was Kwang and we decided not to go all the way to the north. The Lijersdraai Picnic site had no water as well, and with no working toilets, it is an absolute mess!
We got to Kwang and only a small trickle of water was visible with lots of wildebeest patiently waiting their turn. I saw some reports that the migrating Eland are causing havoc with the water, but could it be this bad? Kwang is always a good site for the smaller birds of the north, but unfortunately not this time. We did however see a pair of Kori Bustard, but there was no chance for them to have a drink.
Back at Nossob camp we decided to walk the new desert pathway: the challenge from SANPARKS is to identify 50 birds in camp. This seemed to be well worth our while. We flushed a Barn Owl, and saw 3 species of Canaries, Sparrowweavers, Waxbills, Bokmakierie, Dusky Sunbird, etc. Later that evening we also located the resident pair of Pearl-spotted Owlets. The afternoon was spent at Marie-se-Gat, and we found a Spotted Eagle-Owl nesting on top of a Sociable Weaver nest.
On Tuesday morning we left Nossob for Urikaruus, still with no water at the hide. We made a final call at the Spotted Eagle-Owls nest and could see two chicks. At Rooikop we watched a Black-backed Jackal attempting, and succeeding once to catch a Burchell’s Sandgrouse.
On our way back we could see that the veld was seriously burnt, and this was started by lightning earlier during the week. We had a picnic lunch at Dikbaarskolk and then we travelled over the dunes again to Urikaruus. The fires were even worse on this side, but we did manage to see Ant-eating Chat, Korhaan, 3 species of Lark, Buffy Pipit and a Black-headed Heron at Moravet and another without tail feathers at Vaalpan.
We arrived safely at Urikaruus, unpacked and while sitting down we spotted 2 male lions on the hill across from the camp. At dusk first the one, then the other came down to the waterhole to have a long drink. They greeted one another and disappeared into the dark, very noisily. While we were braaiing a Cape Fox, Spotted Hyena and lots of Eland came for a drink at the waterhole. I managed my first sighting of Rufous-cheeked Nightjar that was hunting in the light of the waterhole. He started with his usual prrrrrrrrrr, that could go on for as long as 3 minutes. Later that night a Barn Owl came to drink and bath.
That night at 3, we got woken by the roars of the same two lions, by 4 it turned into loud roars a mere 20m from us, around 6 I got up open the door and the one was just getting up with the rising sun behind him, still roaring – very scary! The two re-united and disappeared down the riverbed. The one lion had a T on his hind leg. I asked Eric about this and apparently he was naughty at one stage leaving the Park onto private land. He was fortunately transported back to the safety of the Park.
On Wednesday morning we made a slow start after all the excitement of the previous night. We decided on a long breakfast. With the temperature rising we decided that our car’s airconditioner would be a better bet. We travelled north towards Mata Mata, the outside temperature reaching 40 degrees. On the way we found at least 8 vulture nests along the Aub River and near Craig Lockhart the “vlak” was turned into an airstrip for juvenile vultures. No less than 6 juvenile vultures were having flying lessons in a very strong and dusty wind. Then we got lovely photographs of a Bateleur coming to land. It was jumping from one branch to another calling to his mate flying overhead. At 14th Borehole we saw a beautiful pair of Verreaux’s Eagle-Owls, as well as Tawny Eagles and an African Wildcat. At 17:30 we reached Urikaruus with the outside temperature still at 39 degrees.
Thursday, after a leisurely breakfast (you don’t need to go anywhere as the waterhole is in camp) we drove to 13th Borehole. It was cold (4degrees) and the birds only became active at about 11:00. We spent two wonderful hours at the hole. I still believe this is the best waterhole in the Park to see all the small birds, and you don’t need bins or a long lens. A 70 – 200mm lens should give you all you need to take magnificent photographs. That afternoon we returned to 13th Borehole and watched an Ostrich dust bathing and a Kori Bustard had a drink.
Back at camp just after 19:00 I heard the call of a cat and after a while a leopard appeared. It was just about to be joined by its cub, when a camp guest put a strong light on it. It ran away and took cover under our cabin. It calmed down and just as it was about to start sharpening its claws, THAT MAN WITH THE LIGHT APPEARED AGAIN ??? This time she called it a day and I could hear her calling for some time trying to reconnect with her cub. A strong wind came up and it was an early to bed for all.
Just before 5 we got woken by the hooves of the Eland (just like they were wearing high heels). They looked like ghosts in the dark, all 54 of them!! All too soon they disappeared on their high heels. Our next visitor was a Verreaux's Eagle-Owl: after a drink and a bath he flew up and preened himself until he silently disappeared again.
Now we were wide awake and sitting on our little veranda. The next moment I heared that cat call again. First the female leopard came for a drink and she then called. Not just one, but two cubs came running towards her, drinking at leisure, playing together for at least another 10 minutes around the waterhole! This we had all to ourselves with no lights, cameras or anything that could disturb them. This is what the bush camps should be all about.
This bring me to another point: why do guests paying extra to stay in these camps to experience peace and quiet have to experience other cars coming in, despite the no entrance signs. These people drive in arrogantly knowing that nothing will happen to them even though they are in contravention of the park rules. Come on SANParks - you are well aware that hundreds of people are breaking your rules every year - please do something about it!
Unfortunately Friday came far too quickly and we had to exit the Park, but we were in no hurry as we were only travelling to Kakamas that evening. On our way out we saw a very pregnant Suricate, my third lifer for the trip, a White-faced Scops Owl. The other two being a Rufous-eared Nightjar and Buffy Pipit. All in all we saw 89 species, but still no Honey Badger !