Sunday, 20 December 2009

KTP - The Hidden Gem - Day 2

Springbok grazing on the dry riverbank
Day 2 - Two Rivers to Nossob
A mad rush to get out of Twee Rivierin at the gate opening time – something we dubbed the “Kalahari Express” for the rest of the trip.  For the first 10km, it was basically just driving in a row trying to get through the dune and into the river bed J  We hit our first bit of luck at the first waterhole in the Auob River. 

Cheetah drinking
Three cars stopped ahead of us for a cheetah heading down the dunes to drink – this was very cool – our first spotted cat in almost a year!  We spent about 20 minutes with her while she drank and walked back across the road and into the dunes.  
Our first cat sighting in KTP - cheetah
By this time, the Kalahari Express had dispersed, leaving us to meander along.  We hit our second piece of luck a couple waterholes later at Kamfersboom – another spotted cat drinking- only this time it was a leopard!  We were amazed! 

The leopard was pretty calm, but unfortunately he was just a bit too far for our cameras to pick up clearly (we could see why so many people have MASSIVE cameras and lenses in this park) and he was a bit of a spoil sport by heading away from us into the opposite dune ridge.  But still – to see a leopard on our first morning – and right after a cheetah – was phenomenal!  And there was more to come… 
We stopped at the Museum at Auchterlonie, where we met a couple who were on their final day, and they told us that there were 3 cheetahs about 5km up the road – and they had just made a kill…  We were off like a shot and found the group of cars soon enough.

And there they were – one was walking with part of the springbok they had hunted, while one was already resting after gorging himself.    

We couldn’t have dreamed of this! Spending so much time in the Botswana bush, we would have been happy with these sightings for our whole trip, but it was only 9am on our first full day!  We were in awe…

Hyenas cooling off
And it didn’t stop there – about 6 km from Urikaruus we spotted 3 spotted hyenas lying in the shade of a big tree in the riverbed.  I had read online that there was a hyena den in the area, so we were happy to get a look at these amazing animals.  And just past them we caught our first sighting of a lion in the park – a male sleeping under a big tree, unfortunately on the other side of the river – too far for photos.
We spent quite a lot of time with the giraffe at Dertiende Boorgat who had just come down to drink.  The great thing about the waterhole is that it’s so close to the road that we were able to get some great close up shots of them drinking – I’m always entertained by their drinking style.  We even managed to spot an African wild cat coming out of a hole in the valley and running amongst the gemsbok, before disappearing.

We drove all the way to Mata-Mata, passing the waterholes that are so nice and close to the road and (unlike 13th Boorgat) have nice shady trees to sit under and watch the birds coming to drink, catching a few magnificent and sleek secretary birds drinking.

We hit our 2nd bit of luck with the spotted hyenas on our way back – as we approached 13th Boorgat again, 2 of the hyenas were walking towards the waterhole.  Not only did they drink, but actually got into the water and spent some time playing in it.  We spent about 40 minutes with them (them in the water, us in the hot sun!) before leaving for Nossob.

Swallow-tailed bee-eater
Again, we were impressed with the setup of the campground.  If anyone has camped on the SA coast during Christmas, they would know how crowded and on top of each other the campsites are, so we were expecting the same, but although fairly close, they were far enough away for a bit of privacy.

But what interested us the most was the bird hide and the fact that it is open 24 hours a day.  I had read passing references to it, but even in the official information guide, they didn’t mention it, which would be extremely worth promoting to anyone that wants to try and catch the night creatures of the Kalahari.

White-backed vulture
We just set our stuff down at Nossob and headed out almost immediately to check out the surrounds.  We didn’t get very far though.  About 500m from the camp – 2 male lions, one on each side of the road lying in the grass.  This was insane!  (It was a phrase we would repeat a number of times during our trip)  A bit further on, another lion, sleeping near a wildebeest kill. 

And further on from there, 2 separate sightings of a lioness each.  In between the predator sightings, of course there were plenty of antelope – mainly wildebeest and springbok, with some small herds of gemsbok thrown into the mix.  And a nice storm to break the summer heat rounded off the fantastic evening drive…

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Check out our full list of sightings for Day 2

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