Kgalagadi Adventure Feb 2021

We decided to plan a trip to escape the Covid-19 lifestyle to which we were all forced to endure. The new Covid regulations made it slightly more difficult to travel. However, we were determined to escape the strained Covid lifestyle.

South African Side

It took us 3 days to travel up to the border of Botswana. Luckily it was a very simple and uneventful check-in on both sides, as we arrived an hour before our Covid test expired.

After spending two nights in Twee Rivieren, we departed for Nossob. We were hoping to experience the typical Kgalagadi thunderstorms which occur between November to April, however, the rain was elusive. In our 10 years of visiting the Kgalagadi, we have never seen the Kgalagadi looking so lush and green as we did in February. The grass must have been at least a meter high and stretched off into an endless horizon.

On this trip, we found more animals further North in the park. In fact, on numerous occasions, we had to share the road with lions that were relocating. We were pleasantly surprised that the lions were abiding by the rules of the road. They would keep to one side while we were able to pass through. They were slow and bothered by the heat and walked a long way and gave you a very chilling, and meaningful look as they walked by.

Lions in the Road

We came across a rather beautiful male lion who had clearly overslept. He woke to find his females had left him. This type of beahviour is rather similar to our own species. The females take the opportunity to sneak off quietly and leave him to his own devices.  When he wakes up, he looks around very confused and sorry for himself and when he can’t find them.

This is usually when he starts calling out pitifully. In most cases, they choose not to answer him, and they continue with their business. He walks around in circles completely dumbfounded as to where they have gone. With a reputation of having such a great sense of smell, it often confuses us as to why he can never simply just follow the scent of the females.  We have seen male lions frantically search for their females within 20 meters of the females. Totally unaware of where they were hiding from him.

They usually and eventually do catch up with the females and the same thing happens the next day. What is lovely is that they greet each other as if they haven’t seen one other for weeks.

 

Hides

We usually arrive at the hide at precisely the wrong moment. We meet people who keep telling us “You just missed a leopard… Just missed a this or that”. However, the birdlife was fascinating.

We usually visit the Kgalagadi at a different time of the year. What a treat to see a lot of migratory bird species which we have not seen before. It was a little confusing in the beginning because we did not expect to see them there. We saw birds like the black kite for instance. There were Marshall Eagle and Black Chested Snake Eagles, which was incredibly special for us. Watching the Lanner Falcon hunt at waterholes is really something. The falcons have numerous hunting techniques and watching them hunt was an incredible experience.

 

Campsites

We stayed at the luxury campsites with their own private ablutions and kitchen area. However, the ablutions at Nossob and in fact throughout the whole Kgalagadi park on the South African side are pretty good and meticulously clean.

We left for the Botswana side early and after a very corrugated trip past Polenswa Waterhole, we stopped for breakfast at a picnic site. You are not allowed out of your vehicle in the Kgalagadi Park, except at picnic sites which are demarcated sometimes by stones and sometimes just by the area being cleared or by a rope fence about 6 inches off the ground. It is clear that their markings on the outside of the picnic site prohibiting animals from entering need to be updated. These picnic sites are often occupied by lions and other animals who have no regard for rules and regulations. The usual practice when this happens is to use another picnic site and as they are spaced about an hour and a half apart. This can get interesting when you are overdue for an ablution break.

We had an uneventful breakfast except for the Sociable Weavers that stole our bread. Bastards.

 

Botswana Side

Once we crossed over the Botswanan border, it became immediately apparent that we needed to put our seed nets on. The tracks were hardly visible as the grass was quite overgrown. A year of no travel made it nearly impossible to follow the tracks. However, after a few hours of struggling through, we managed to reach our campsite overlooking Swartpan.

We were lucky enough to spot a cheetah on the way to camp, but it quickly disappeared into the long grass and there was no way we could follow or see it again.

After setting up, taking off our seed nets, and using our air compressors to try to dislodge the solid clock of seeds, we were finally able to enjoy the evening. As usual, the stars and the moon somehow come closer to the Earth when you camp under these huge skies. It is often totally unnecessary to put lights on in the camp at night as the moon and the stars give off so much light. Without light (or any pollution at all) it is crystal clear. This is one of the reasons we love Swartpan, it is one of the most remote places you can get to relatively quickly from South Africa.

 

On our 3rd day, a Botswana Parks bakkie drove up to the campsite. After a lengthy chat with the rangers about the current pandemic, the ranger was telling us how the lockdown has affected everyone in Botswana in a very negative way. Even the rangers who live miles away from anyone had to obey protocols like handwashing and wearing masks.

The Ranger told us that someone had visited them to take a census and record everybody who would have to be vaccinated. He said that local sentiment was that when they came to do the vaccines, they would all disappear into the bush on that day.

The last few days were absolutely stunning. We spent the next few days enjoying nature and watching the animals wandering around the huge pan. Herds of springbok, red hartebeest, oryx, and some kudu roamed through the area.

Of course, after we broke camp and started our way back to the South African borer, found ourselves with just a bit of drama. The seed nets on our companion’s vehicle was so blocked up that caused the vehicle to overheat. Luckily we manage to get that sorted and started our journey home.