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 Post subject: Penni's Journal - Kgalagadi : March 2006
Unread postPosted: Wed May 03, 2006 10:40 pm 
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Ok then. Here's a report I know lots of people have been waiting for. Sorry for the delay, but Penni is, and as always has been, as busy as a (lady)bug can be. Because she's such a dear friend, we have agreed that I will be posting her journal to the forums for her. And so to ensure that credit goes where credit is due: all text and images are hers (some pics are Fi's)... and that I'm just the messenger. Therefore complaints - by registered mail only - are to be addressed to the management. :wink:

The pics have all been downsized and should load without a problem, but to be kind to those of you out there who are on dial up, I have limited the number of pics to max. 4 per post... well, in most cases! I hope you understand that this automatically means there's gonna be a truckload of posts! :lol:

For the record; the original journal includes some pics taken during the trip from Cape Town to the KTP and vice versa, but for obvious reasons only the SANParks related content of the journal will be posted here. That means that part of the original text and some of the 'people pics' will not appear in these posts, unless relevant. The same goes for information that can be found elsewhere on this site (Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park). Those of you who still want the whole shootbang, PM me and I'll see what I can do.

Questions? No questions? Well then, fasten your seatbelts and let's hit the road... :D


Last edited by Jose on Thu May 11, 2006 10:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Kgalagadi March 2006 - Penni's Journal, part 1
Unread postPosted: Wed May 03, 2006 10:42 pm 
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Penni writes:

Before I start with the journal let me say that Fiona and I have agreed that her pictures are mine and my pictures are hers! We have identical cameras and were side by side when 99% of them were taken. Sometimes I have used my pictures and other times I have used hers - it all depended on which side of the vehicle the animals were and which way the sun was shining! Sometimes Fiona was using her video camera and I was taking pictures and at other times I was negotiating through tricky terrain and Fiona was taking pictures. Sometimes I was digging the car out of . . . . .

Let's get started!
Our chosen route from Cape Town took us north towards the Namibian border until the town of Springbok where we turned North-East and headed through the desolate Northern Cape to Upington via a small town called Pofadder. We had planned our first night's stop in Keimoes at a delightful oasis ~ De Werf B&B ~ just 40kms (25 miles) short of Upington. As we had left Cape Town at 4:00am and only stopped once to make tea by the road side we made excellent time and had most of the afternoon to ourselves. Our last decent meal was eaten that night at De Werf.

We skirted the huge town of Upington early the next morning and then turned north for the +200km (125 miles) of almost dead straight road to the park. Civilization falls away behind us and I start to breathe deeply and smile in anticipation. City stress leaks from the soles of my bare feet . . . . no radio, no television, no newspaper, no cell phones.

At last we reached the turn off to the park and leave the tarred road behind us. They are busy making a new road to the park entrance but it will be many years before it is complete as it is being made by hand! The longer it takes the better, as far as I am selfishly concerned. The moment a tarred road leads to the gates every man with 4 wheels will head to the Kgalagadi and its peace and quiet will be shattered. As it stands now, very few non 4 x 4 vehicles brave the atrocious roads and many of them leave on the back of a flat-bed tow-truck or minus their exhaust system and shock absorbers. The South African road is particularly bad and was at its worst this trip because of all the rain. We could immediately tell which cars had entered the park via South Africa as the only clean bits were the shapes left by the wipers on the windscreen - the rest was solid mud. Not to mention the stressed faces of the drivers! I had planned to enter the park via Botswana so only had to drive a short way in the muddy, pot-holed ditches on the sides of the new road being built. Before turning off to the border post and immigration we stopped to take pictures of a Bushman selling his traditional wares by the road side.

We leave South Africa, clear immigration, have our passports stamped, drive to the Botswana border post, clear immigration, have our passports stamped and then travel about 60kms (38 miles) on a relatively good gravel road and then reverse the procedure to get back into South Africa at Twee Rivieren ~ the gateway to the Kgalagadi Park. Twee Rivieren means 'two rivers' and is situated at the confluence of the dry Nossob & Auob Rivers. Even with all the rain neither of these rivers were flowing ~ they are ephemeral rivers and only flow for very short periods in times of exceptional rain. A portion of the Auob is said to flow once every 11 years and the Nossob perhaps twice every 100 years. The Nossob last flowed in 1963. They do, however, carry rainwater in the wet season . . . . it is all beneath the sandy surface.

And so we arrive at Twee Rivieren on a magnificent day with not a cloud in site. And it is warm - a nice dry, healthy 38C (100F). We are wonderfully early and have a good choice of camp sites ~ later the camp will fill up with the poor souls who struggled in via the South African road. We set up camp, make a quick cup of tea and head out for a game drive.

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      The plastic ammunition crates carry all our food, camp kitchen equipment and vehicle equipment. They are tough, waterproof, snake and jackal proof and stack beautifully. The back of the vehicle carries a fridge and a freezer and we have 5 containers of fresh Cape Town water. We even have a washing line!
      Our home for the next 10 days!


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      First up on the game drive is a Juvenile Pale Chanting Goshawk. Later you will see pictures of the adult birds in totally different plumage.

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      A Kori Bustard. The world's heaviest flying bird . . . . which it does very reluctantly. Magnificent feathers which are coveted by Botswanan chiefs for their headdresses & cloaks. Endangered in some parts of Southern Africa but certainly not here - we saw hundreds of them.

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      <...> Sociable Weavers nest. Eventually the weight will become so great with rain or a strong wind the branch will break and the entire mass will crash to the ground. The little birds will start all over again. They never stop building and adding to a structure.

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      And our first ostrich. The male birds of the Kgalagadi have unique cinnamon coloured tails and bright red shins.


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 Post subject: Kgalagadi March 2006 - Penni's Journal, part 2
Unread postPosted: Wed May 03, 2006 10:44 pm 
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      Image
      And our first of many encounters with lion. This group consisted of two females, one with 3 cubs and the other with 2 younger cubs. Two males were resting just around the corner. This is how we spent the rest of the afternoon . . . .

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      Fast asleep in deep shade.

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      The other female more alert until she, too, flopped down and went back to sleep.
It was still early in the afternoon and way too hot for them to be going anywhere soon. We decided to drive a little further on and return when it was cooler and watch and wait for them to start their night time activities. I love lions but cannot sit for too long watching them sleep . . . I would rather find something that moves and is a bit more challenging for photography!
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      Underneath a branch weighed down by a Sociable Weavers nest. Now you can see the individual entrances clearly.

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      And panting in the heat at the top of a Camel Thorn tree we have a Jackal Buzzard. Not very common in these parts and slightly out of his normal distribution area (according to our bird books). But we were soon to learn that nothing was 'normal' in the Kgalagadi this trip!


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 Post subject: Kgalagadi March 2006 - Penni's Journal, part 3
Unread postPosted: Wed May 03, 2006 10:45 pm 
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The drive didn't turn up anything very exciting so we returned to the lions and stayed for the duration. Here are the pictures . . . .

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      Looking a little more awake.

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      Actually moving now!

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      Very healthy looking too - food is not scarce.

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      Not far away Dad's also waking up.


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 Post subject: Kgalagadi March 2006 - Penni's Journal, part 4
Unread postPosted: Wed May 03, 2006 10:46 pm 
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      Image
      Up he gets . . . .

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      . . . and walks towards the females and then up onto the dune behind them.

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      From there he surveys his domain - the females and children below. The other male vanished completely ~ we don't know if he stayed sleeping or disappeared to the other side of the dunes.

      Image
      Let's get closer.


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 Post subject: Kgalagadi March 2006 - Penni's Journal, part 5
Unread postPosted: Wed May 03, 2006 10:48 pm 
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      Image
      Meanwhile, down below the family is stirring. I love the expression on the cub's face . . . . "Gee, Mom, do you have to do that so loud!?"

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      "Mom! Not behind my ears while people are watching!"

      Image
      "This is how big I love you Mom!"

      Image


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 Post subject: Kgalagadi March 2006 - Penni's Journal, part 6
Unread postPosted: Wed May 03, 2006 11:54 pm 
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      Image
      The female with the two younger cubs moves first. They are hungry but she's not interested. A very distinctive scar marks her thigh.

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      She makes them follow her up the dune.

      Image

      Image
      The other female is still thinking about it.


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 Post subject: Kgalagadi March 2006 - Penni's Journal, part 7
Unread postPosted: Wed May 03, 2006 11:57 pm 
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      Image
      Eventually she moves and walks off, turning once to call to her children.

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      The male gets up to meet her.

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      One big happy family and they disappear over the other side.
The light has gone and it's time to return to camp and prepare for our first night under the stars . . . . well, Fiona's first night under the stars!

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      We have visitors on our door mat ~ very pretty moth and a chongololo (millipede). We have yet to identify and name all our 'insect' pictures so for this journal they will be referred to as moths and butterflies!


Jakkalsbessie wrote:
This is the Cream-striped Owl moth (Cyligramma latona).


Last edited by Jose on Sun May 14, 2006 7:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Kgalagadi March 2006 - Penni's Journal, part 8
Unread postPosted: Wed May 03, 2006 11:59 pm 
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Neither Fiona nor I are much interested in food ~ certainly not the preparation thereof ~ so this was a perfect trip for me and I didn't have to plan or think about menus. Breakfast was a cup of tea at dawn. We ate 'pad kos' (road food) while driving and had a wonderful carry-bag with biltong, apples, cereal bars, dried fruit, sweets, rusks, nuts and home-made flapjacks (oat crunchies to the South Africans!). As long as we had our bottles of water or juice and could rummage in the bag we were happy. When we came across the rare picnic site where we could (legally) leave our vehicle we would stop and make tea or have lunch. Lunch would be a cheese sandwich which had to be made in double quick time. From freezer to mouth the butter would turn to oil, the cheese would go shiny & rubbery and the slices of bread would defrost, curl and turn to toast. Never mind the birds, ground squirrels and insects that all wanted their share! Supper was sliced cold meat and a tin of sweetcorn or baked beans, or perhaps a bowl of cornflakes. If we felt energetic we would make tuna mayonnaise or defrost the pre-cooked mince. Once I even cooked the sausages I took with us! We also had tinned fruit and small cartons of custard. We did not go hungry and with minimal effort.

Surprisingly the mosquitoes in Twee Rivieren camp site were awful. I guess there were puddles of stagnant water lying around from the recent rains as usually there are none. Fiona suffered badly from bitten legs which kept her awake at night stinging and burning. The first aid kit ointments helped to soothe somewhat but it was a few days before the bites settled down to manageable state.

The day's heat abated sometime during the night. 5:30 the next morning was nice and cool and after a quick cup of tea we made our camp 'safe' and headed out for the day.

I said it a thousand times during our trip and I will say it again here. I have never seen the desert so lush. With the good rains the Kgalagadi had put on her best party dress for us. Swaying skirts of green, purple and white grasses, her normally bare shoulders of the famous red sands were covered in shawls of creepers dotted with jewels of little blood-red blossoms. Flowers were everywhere and the life-supporting tsamma melons were fat and juicy. The normally sandy river beds were fields of grass and I expected to see very little game. In normal conditions the game congregates in the river beds seeking the sparse vegetation surviving on underground water. I would have thought the ungulates would have scattered far and wide into the inaccessible interior taking with them the predators. But I have never seen game like we did on this trip.

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      The famous red sand dunes of the Kgalagadi peeping through green grass and flowers.

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      First sighting of the day . . . . a puff adder coming towards us on the sandy road. As we drew level it turned and crept under a dark bush - Fiona only just managed a quick picture of its tail before it disappeared.

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      Namaqua Sandgrouse near a waterhole. They arrive in the early morning and soak up water in their absorbent tummy feathers then fly miles and miles back to their nests and give their offspring a drink. They are very skittish and alert - Falcons swoop down at incredible speeds for their favourite prey.

      Image
      Leopard tortoise - he was a big chap. Look at the long toe-nails on his back feet! We were told later by a ranger that when tortoises go walk-about rain will come. He was right!


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 Post subject: Kgalagadi March 2006 - Penni's Journal, part 9
Unread postPosted: Thu May 04, 2006 12:00 am 
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      Image
      Ground agama in breeding colours.

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      The gnarled and twisted bark of the Camel Thorn tree.

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      Tissue-paper thin petals on this flower - bug onboard doing what bugs do best.

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      Another Kori Bustard - see how thick & tall the grass is, it's not normally like that here.

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      Juvenile Lanner Falcon.


Re: pic #3 Jakkalsbessie wrote:
This is a Mexican poppy... Bloudissel (afr) Argemone ochroleuca (= A. subfusiformis)


Last edited by Jose on Sun May 14, 2006 7:49 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Kgalagadi March 2006 - Penni's Journal, part 10
Unread postPosted: Thu May 04, 2006 12:01 am 
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      Image
      Another Juvenile - this time Black-chested Snake Eagle.

      Image
      A Fork-tailed Drongo did not like him being in that tree and continually dive bombed him.

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      It wasn't just for show either - he really smacked the eagle's head hard. Ouch!

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      And then he would sit in the tree close by and scream insults at him!

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      Eventually the eagle had had enough and took off with his headache - being chased and harassed by the Drongo. I always wonder why such a big bird puts up with the antagonistic little ones as they do.


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 Post subject: Kgalagadi March 2006 - Penni's Journal, part 11
Unread postPosted: Thu May 04, 2006 12:03 am 
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      Image
      A couple of browsing gemsbok pretending to be bookends.

      Image
      Red Hartebeest family poses nicely for us.
Time for a tea stop at a picnic spot. We had a slow puncture and I had to pump the tyre anyway - every morning, lunch time and evening . . . . until I fixed it. While we were sitting in the shade a little bird flew down onto the ground and started dancing and singing, jumping up and down and waving his wings up and down. I had never seen this before and was intrigued. And then we saw the snake coming towards us and we knew the reason. The bird had been warning us of its approach. Poor bird - we did not heed his warning and run away. We grabbed our cameras and went for a closer look. It was not a big snake - about 30cms (12 inches) long I would guess, about as thick as a man's thumb and oh so pretty.

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Fiona hunkers down for a real close up shot - the bird goes frantic and hovers above her head shrieking. The snake is aggressive and makes a lunge seconds after the next picture was taken. I do not know my snakes that well and had no idea what it was or if it was poisonous. As I had no snake bite kit in the first aid I figured we should back off and let the poor creature go on his way. The bird was very relieved that we saw sense after all!

Later, with the help of internet buddies, the snake has been identified as a juvenile mole snake - looks nothing like a grown up as you will see later.

      Image


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 Post subject: Kgalagadi March 2006 - Penni's Journal, part 12
Unread postPosted: Thu May 04, 2006 12:06 am 
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      Image
      Marico Flycatcher - gentle little bird.

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      Springbok keeping cool in the shade.

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      And then, at a waterhole, we find masses of raptors. Not only my favourite Bateleur Eagle . . .

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      But lots of Tawny Eagles. I had never seen this colour version before and wonder if they are special to this area. So pale they are almost white.


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 Post subject: Kgalagadi March 2006 - Penni's Journal, part 13
Unread postPosted: Thu May 04, 2006 8:29 pm 
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      Image
      Overhead were vultures - this one is a White-backed.

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      Two pale Tawny Eagles in a tree along with the more normal, toffee coloured one.

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      And right next to the Bateleur was this Secretary Bird . . .
      "I am sure I had toes down there yesterday!"
All of these pictures (and many more!) were taken from the vehicle without moving one inch. It was incredible, there were raptors all around us in every direction and we stayed as long as we could until the heat drove us away, our black cameras almost too hot to handle.

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      Moving on we have to wait while a herd of wildebeest cross the road - this baby taking a flying leap to get up the bank.


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 Post subject: Kgalagadi March 2006 - Penni's Journal, part 14
Unread postPosted: Thu May 04, 2006 8:30 pm 
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      Image
      We found the lions from yesterday - the cubs were well hidden in deep shade at the base of a tree while the two mothers lay entwined more out in the open.

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      Gemsbok who did not turn his back or run away as they usually do. This one was quite happy to have his portrait taken.
      Clowns of the desert and phenomenal animals who can control their own body temperature to cope with the searing heat.


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      The butterflies were incredible. Wherever there was a patch of wet earth there would be butterflies sucking up the moisture.

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      I will find out their names when I have more time!


Jakkalsbessie wrote:
Re: pic #3: Look like the green form of the African Migrants.
Re: pic #4: Seem like the Citrus Swallowtail...


Last edited by Jose on Sun May 14, 2006 7:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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