South Africa 2018

Kgalagadi park map

Short video clips

We had just returned from an epic 9 week trip to South Africa including both Kgalagadi and Kruger Park. I happened to notice people on the Facebook groups talking about getting their December bookings so I went to the Sanparks site out of curiosity. And saw 6 nights in a row available at Urikaruus. I called my husband to see if he wanted to return so soon (usually it's more like every 4 years) and he asked why I hadn't booked it yet. The final itinerary (after picking up a few cancellations over the 11 months of waiting was:

3-4 KTC

5-10 Urikaruus

11-12 Grootkolk

13-14 Nossob

15-16 Kielekrankie

17 Urikaruus

Flights were on Virgin Atlantic again through London. The exit row seats 53A and 53C were worth the extra cost, especially as no one bought 53B! We arrived in Upington in the afternoon on a Sunday so we stayed at the River Place manor overnight (very nice B&B, on the river), largely so we could buy alcohol Monday morning before heading to the park. Kalahari 4x4 again provided a great vehicle, a Toyota Fortuner this time as we were not camping at all.

Monday morning found us in the park by 11 am and it was hot. We did expect the heat, and at least it was a dry heat. Heading up the Nossob side as far as Leeudril we saw a lot of the usuals - springbok, oryx, secretary bird, spotted eagle owl, and squirrels, as well as ostrich with young and red hartebeest. Returning to Samvoelung and the Auob we found some early flowers, and a young Martial eagle. At Auchterlonie 3 lions greeted us, the male was shy. Giraffe, weaver nests, swallow tailed bee eaters, and more owls followed. There were some very young springbok calves as well as some a few months old. Arriving at Kalahari Tented Camp we were assigned #10 and found a yellow mongoose family at our gate. In addition a jackal family came to visit, we think the young ones were the same ones that visited us as little puppies last year. Our evening drive was quiet but we found a cape fox den before Sitsas and enjoyed watching the kits. There were a few springbok herds but the park was very dry.

Tuesday morning 4 December we headed south and below Craig Lockhart I stopped my husband so I could check out a suspicious bush on the ridgeline. It was just a bush but I continued to scan as he let a car go by, and found cheetah! 3, just below the ridgeline. They came down a little ways and watched the valley but then returned to the top and disappeared into the dunes. I think it was Corinne and her cubs, the two youngsters were playful. Kori bustard were common as usual. At 13th borehole we were told of a honey badger that had a den under a deadfall, she was making regular hunting expeditions to bring back food. We were lucky to catch her return once. Spingbok rounded out our morning drive. For the afternoon we had a black chested snake eagle, meerkats, tawny eagle, many more springbok, the cape foxes again, and the jackals at camp. Star photography was attempted that night with the new moon. Tented camp has enough windows to let the breeze in, and it cooled off enough I even used a blanket part of the night.

Wednesday December 5 brought giraffe, steenbok, dikkops, red-billed quelea, a lanner falcon eating a red-billed quelea, and a large male lion at 13th borehole. At 14th we just missed a lioness drinking before she moved into the shade. Just north of there we just missed a springbok giving birth but saw it take its first steps and drink. After a quick stop at Mata Mata we had skinks, lizards, the lioness, and oryx before arriving at our next camp, Urikaruus, for an incredible 6 night stay. Erick put us in #4, where two lioness were waiting outside the deck to greet us. Secretary birds flew in, and the lioness moved across the riverbed for the day, coming to drink once. Yellow billed hornbills were pests, and squirrels, meerkat, and many birds visited the waterhole. Nighttime brought several brown hyena, jackal, cape fox, giant eagle owl, bat eared fox, springbok, and more star photography.

Thursday December 6 driving south we found many more cape fox dens, with even younger kits (2-3 per den). South of Kamqua we saw a cheetah on the ridgeline, it was Hanri and her 14 month old female cub (she had given birth during our previous visit). We followed them south for several kilometers, including a stop at Rooibrak for a drink. One other car from Urikaruus was with us but they left. We had scouted ahead and not seen any springbok for another kilometer. They came up to walk on the road and we went ahead a few curves and waited. And waited. Suddenly rocketing down the riverbed came a springbok with Hanri hot on her heels. Where did she come from? My husband knows he is lucky the chase came our way, but we were perfectly positioned for the high speed chase and catch. Hanri came to rest in the shade next to us and the cub pulled the carcass to her. They happily chowed down. Crimson breasted shrike added some color. Needing a pitstop we headed south towards Auchterlonie and a small traffic jam alerted us to leopard, Miera's two cubs under a bush, we watched one run off. The cheetah had made a lot of progress on the carcass as we went back by, reaching Urikaruus just in time to see 4 giraffe at the waterhole. Hot afternoons were spent with a wet towel, fairly pleasant when there was a breeze (or we used the ceiling fans when we had them). A tawny eagle came in later that afternoon. For an afternoon drive we tried the upper dune road up to Morevet Pan, with the usual dune creatures - oryx, steenbok, pale chanting goshawk, jackal, black korhaan, and tsama melons. Back in the valley were the cape foxes again, another one hiding from a martial eagle, and mice.

Friday 7 December began with playing springbok babies, a jackal on the carcass remnants, another red bird, meerkats, rats, black shouldered kite, yellow flowers along the lower dune road, oryx drinking at Kij Kij alongside jackal, a big springbok herd at Rooiputs, and a honey badger neat the Leeudril 4x4 trail. More oryx and baby ostrich posed. Back at camp the pesty zazus attacked our car. For the evening drive we watched lanner falcons and a sleepy male lion at 13th. A hare visited the waterhole along with brown hyena.

Saturday 8 December began with a black chested snake eagle, another cape fox den, then some bat eared fox by 14th borehole and lanner falcons, oryx, vultures, PCGs, a lilac breasted roller, young oryx, and a lioness up near Craig Lockhart. Heading south, two male kudu hid in a tree, and I found Hanri and cub eating a young springbok (missed the kill by an hour or so). Meerkat and more young ostrich rounded out the morning. Zazus visted camp again. In the afternoon we found a leopard (tortoise), bee eaters, pearl spotted owlet, cape fox, a hunting jackal, giraffe, tracks, and lizards.

Sunday 9 December was our only cat-free day, with two bat eared fox dens we had been told about. Always fun to see young kits! The evening drive brought a young kori bustard walking under mom, the young martial eagle again, the bat eared fox den again, red bird, and of course the cape foxes. More brown hyena that night.

Monday 10 December began with cape fox (they are so cute!), an immature bateleur eagle, and Hanri and cub again, this time visiting Gemsbokplein waterhole. There was one springbok nearby but it ran off. A slender mongoose caught the cub's attention. The next pictures on the camera were also cheetah, but from our afternoon drive north; Corinne and cubs eating at Craig Lockhart. One male cub was really interested in our car and us! There were also jackal, and two male lion at 14th but they were far off.

Tuesday 11 December was moving day to Grootkolk. The upper dune road brought another giant eagle owl, black korhaan (even caught pictures of them and a kori bustard flying), more lanner falcon, and a kudu family. A spotted eagle owl family greeted us on the Nossob side. Kaspersdraai was amazingly green, they must have had rain. A great daytime brown hyena sighting was amazing. More PCG, and then after a pitstop at Nossob we found 3 cheetah snoozing at Kwang (Catrin and two daughters), another ostrich family at Bedinkt, several bateleur and 11 secretary bird at Polentswa, and lizard at Lijersdraai. At Grootkolk we filled the water dish and enjoyed the birds, and a red hartebeest. It was super hot, we missed having a ceiling fan. We did drive to Union's End in the evening but the waterhole was dry. There were two brown hyena (an hour apart) at the waterhole in the evening, and then at 2 am two cheetah. It was disappointing that the attendant turned the light off at 10 pm.

Wednesday 12 December brought another brown hyena (so common this trip!), a lioness at 8 am who then slept nearby all day (ignoring a wildebeest and a herd of springbok), and the bird show - violet eared waxbill, canary, social weaver, redhead finch, scaly feather finch, starling, redeye bulbul, sparrow, forktail drongo, probably a few more I missed. A gecko hid behind our curtain. At 5 pm the lioness drank again and disappeared.

Thursday 13 December started with brown hyena, a mouse at the waterhole, and then both a lioness and subadult male lion came to the waterhole at 6 am, sticking around over an hour. Heading south we found 3 warthog, a dead dwarf beaked snake, lizard at Lijersdraai, 4 huge lioness in the shade at Kwang, with the Kwang boys just south along the road, and birds and oryx at Cubitjie Kwap. We checked into riverside cabin #20, on the end, with a line of sight to the waterhole in the distance. We enjoyed the air conditioning, but were surprised to find the refrigerator was on the electricity and thus went off at night - why not make them propane? Everything thawed each night as it was very hot. The bedroom does not have enough windows that open to get a breeze either. For the evening we drove south to Kaspersdraai and found black breasted snake eagle, oryx with water reflection, flowers, and jackal in the road.

Friday 14 December I was awoken at 1:45 am by roaring lion. We could see cubs at the waterhole and drove over there. In addition to tons of lion photos we took barn owl and star photos. In the morning we did a short drive north, with a lone lioness north of camp, more north of Kwang, a bat eared fox den, and sun rays. We then spent the day enjoying the air conditioning and catching up on sleep. The evening drive was quiet, only an immature PCG made the photo cut. Apparently the lions & cubs came by again that night according to our trail camera but they didn't roar this time.

Saturday 15 December we finally had a sighting at Rooikop waterhole, a big male lion! Also a brown hyena on the road, slender mongoose, 4 lioness at Marie se Gat, another immature PCG with a kill, oryx at Kaspersdraai, more flowers, more baby ostrich, and finally a cape cobra (after many sightings our previous trip). We arrived at Kielekrankie and got #1. In the evening we found Hanri and cub again, now near Batulama waterhole. Camp host Willem told me where to look for two 5 month old wildcat kittens, I didn't get good pictures that night but I saw them. A lioness hung out at the waterhole.

Sunday 16 December after a pretty sunrise, I peeked at the wildcats kittens in a drainpipe, then we found Hanri again north of Montrose, heading back to Rooibrak. She wasn't interested in wildebeest or oryx. She went over the dune ridge after drinking. That evening we stayed in and I stalked the wildcat kittens, so cute! Waterhole visitors that night included multiple owl, wildcat, cheetah, and a caracal!

Monday 17 December had a brown hyena again, a super young oryx with mom on the dune road, and then we headed north, finding red hartebeest, a male lion near Rooibrak, a carcass (probably from Hanri), another violet eared waxbill, revisited the cape fox dens, more bee eaters, a cape crow with scorpion kill, eagles, black chested snake eagle, cape foxes, oryx and jackal at Craig Lockhart, 5 lions north of there and a mom & cub near Sitsas, big springbok herds, giraffe, birds, and then a return to Urikaruus (unit 1 this time). The zazus still posed. We headed south for the evening drive, rewarded with a pygmy falcon and several hare and cape fox. The real reward was at 11 pm when alarming jackal and bat eared fox showed us a leopard at the waterhole! It was Uranib, who we also saw our first trip to the park in 2013. He walked between cabins 1&2, walked under the host's cabin, and left (so we thought)…at 11:30 we noticed he was back at the waterhole and followed the same pattern when he left.

Our last day began with immature PCG, cape fox (of course), alert springbok that we thought would lead to cheetah but it was two lioness drinking at Rooibrak, two more at Montrose, slender mongoose, and 5 lanner falcons mobbing a tawny eagle. A long drive to Upington, some shopping, and then the VERY long flights home began.

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