SA: Kgalagadi – 2023, December

Legend says, 'Once the red Kalahari sand bites your toes, you will be drawn back again and again and again'.... and so we return ... again ..and again... and again ... we managed to find last minute availability on the SANParks website so booked at short notice ...

🙂 Quick fix for our addiction to the red sand!

🙁 44C!!!

Itinerary: Saturday 16 Dec – Friday 22 Dec 2023 – Twee Rivieren (x1) – Kalahari Tented Camp (x2) – Gharagab(x1) – Bitterpan (x1) – Urikaruus (x1)

Saturday, 16 December 2023 – 39C

We had an uneventful flight but there was concern about our luggage as it had been tagged direct through to Upington but the lady at SAAirlink told us that it did not go direct… aaaargh – we rushed around and were told that the luggage was on the flight so we were mighty relieved to see our bags in Upington! 🙂 Next challenge was our car hire -all appeared OK and the lady was very friendly and concerned as it was her Rental that had provided the 2×2 rather than the 4×4 which we got a full refund for previously … all was going well until we started the car – but it was flat – someone had left the indoor lights on! We jump started it and headed to Pick n Pay to get some groceries – when we came out it was flat again! We tried to call but no answer – finally responded to her whatsapp checking if we were ok! So she came to jump start us again! Yikes. What a start … we headed off to Kgalagadi and made sure to stop off to buy some locally crafted items from the local San people.

So good to be back!

We were in No.13 – very comfortable and good for Disabled access – they always keep these units until the last minute.

As we had made it in good time to check in at Twee Rivieren we had just enough time for. short game drive … it was very quiet and we turned back after Saamevloeing. 39C – HOT!

We bumped into Mohammed and Safirah Jinna who we were meeting for dinner at that evening as we closed the gate… we enjoyed a delicious family recipe of Chicken Biriani with them and laughed lots over many safari stories! Mohammed produced the stunning Kruger Coffee Table Book which he raised significant funds for VHR

Sunday, 17 December 2023 – 41C

Sunrise was stunning… It was 16C at 5am … We were on the road soon after 05h30….by 7am it was already 24C!

We headed off turning left over the dunes towards KTC which was to be home for the next tow nights. When we stopped to take apic of a koorhaan the car barely started! Yikes … we needed to keep the engine running!

We spent time enjoying meerkats going about their daily business..At 08h30 it was 30C!

Some other interesting observations..

Stopped at Kamqua for brunch picnic at 10h00 and it was already 38C!

We drove on stopping at all the waterholes. At 13th Borehole lions had killed 3 eland on 29th Oct 23 and the dried out carcass still lay next to the waterhole with a pair of crows picking at the bones. It hit 40C!

Mama was under the tree with her 3 tiny cubs aged about 8 weeks old playing on her while the big male slept in the background. The little ones finally left mother in peace and proceeded to climb the tree and then finally also fell asleep….too hot for anything else!

Stopped at Mata Mata to stock up on a few cold drinks.

There is a resident mob of meerkats at Mata Mata and I was lucky enough to capture some footage of them – cuties!

Continued to KTC and welcomed by Jan… 43C!! SO hot that we needed a swim!

Did a quick drive in the evening – fairly quiet as so hot!

The lions at 13th had sprawled across the road and were fast asleep… there were maybe four vehicles at the sighting and everyone moved for each other so that all cars got a good view before leaving them to a peaceful sleep.

A honeymoon couple were chilling just before the KTC turnoff…

18h30 still 41C Had a braai while watching Mama and Papa birds busily feeding their chicks in our roof.


Delicious steak! YUM. It was so hot that we had to keep wetting the cooling towels in order to get some respite from the heat so that we could sleep!

Monday, 18 December 2023 – 44C

We were up and ready to leave when the gates opened a 05h30

Interesting tracks on the road

We didn’t get far before spotting this busy bee eater family feeding their chicks on the side of the road. It is constant hard work for these good parents!

Of course all tracks finally led to our lion family at 13th! …

We were searching for the cubs with our binocs when suddenly they appeared joyously running to Mama and we were treated with an amazing morning of adorable cub action. We have never before seen a fully grown male lion this tolerant of such very young cubs – they can only be 8 weeks old … he spent time grooming her and bonding and then tolerated the cubs leaping all over him…this is what makes the Kalahari magic!

A thirsty giraffe tried to stroll by without being observed! Fortunately the lions were otherwise occupied! 🙂

After a good feed the cubs disappeared into the shade so we thought that we would make a move … we saw Friendly Phillip whom we’d met at KTC with his Mom and stopped for a quick chat while switching the engine off so as not to disturb other vehicles … we bid them farewell and tried to start the car to move off as another car was approaching and we were blocking the road … BUT the battery was flat again! By very good fortune Phillip had this amazing super power battery pack and hopped out (lion in background!) and helped us to jump start the car! (Guess what Paul’s Christmas gift was?!)… Phew, that was a close call! 🙂 We headed off to see what else the morning would hold.

WE saw the road grader in action…

We were feeling hungry and had planned to have a picnic brunch at Dijkbaarskolk…we arrived and our favourite spot was available so we drove over and I hopped out to start preparing when we heard shouting from another vehicle …”Leeus! Leeus!” which of course means Lions! Now I know we have often seen lions around this picnic spot but we did not expect them to be camping in the toilet!! Two sub adults were enjoying the shade and not moving anywhere!

We were not going to picnic here today! This did make us stop and think how often we have pulled into a picnic spot without checking and dashed into the loo… Lesson Learnt – always check first – this territory is wild and remote and unfenced! My cousin and her daughter had once picnicked here and eaten all their food and chatted for an hour before heading to the toilet only to find a leopard staring straight at them – it had been there for the duration of their lunch!

We drove onwards and found a very hot hyena taking a dip at Kameelsleep!

…There were two lions in the shade at Rooiputs…

We drove onwards and found another two lions at Leeuwdril…

There was a queue of gemsbok waiting to drink at the water hole but they were too scared to do so as they had spotted the lions under the tree… as they approached they would snort and then back off again. We stopped off for lunch at Twee Rivieren as we were completely starving by now!

While at TR we bought a permit to do the Leeudril 4×4 Trail. It is only 13.Km and cost about R300 and was a fun way to get back on the road to KTC.

On the way back to camp we had a lovely sighting of giraffe coming to drink at Kamqua.

Tail end of a ‘willy willy’ as they are called in Oz

We did the obligatory stop at 13th to spot Mom and Dad who were also very hot! Mama had to do her ablutions! The cubs must have been asleep in the shade.

A lonely hartebeest fawn was in the road.

It was 43C again and time for a dip in the pool! We met a family that we chatted to and then headed back for our braai and watched the stunning sunset.

Tuesday, 19 December 2023

We were out at 05h30 … a cheeky jackal was lurking at our gate!

It was a beautiful morning…

We saw lion tracks heading to Craig Lockart and lots of jackals in the area and wondered whether there had been a kill. One was chewing on what looked like a dead ground squirrel.

We spotted a brown hyena at Dalkeith. It circlds nervously around the waterhole but was frightened by the eland. Eventually it found a large bone and headed off while carefull watched by some wildebeest.

When we arrived we could see that there was something that had been dragged from the waterhole to under the tree that the lions frequented… it was an Eland and there were jackals all over it … then we spotted another eland to the left of the water hole and the male lion was fending jackals from it… he then noticed all the jackals under the tree an trotted over to chase them before heading to the waterhole for a well earned drink! It had obviously been a busy night at 13th TakeAway! 🙂

A great start to the morning…we headed off and our next sighting was 3 male lions asleep at Kaapse Draai. They were out for the count so we headed for our picnic at Dijkbaarskolk which was fortunately lion free! We could see the evidence of their presence yesterday… today we were accompanied by birds and a mongoose who lived under the picnic table!:-)

We enjoyed relaxing and a yummy brunch.

We stopped at Nossob and filled up with fuel. Chatted to a lady who had just come back from Gharagab and had a lioness and two cubs right in front of their unit for two days – they had loved it! SO excited. We left and just before Kwang a car flew around the corner on our side of the road norrowly missing us – if we had not been going slowly and swerved into the sand off road they would have hit us…grrrrr…..We saw lappet faced vultures at Kwang taking advantage of the water…. and a hot ostrich.

The sandy 4×4 trail to Gharagab was an easy drive. There were lion prints all around our unit – exciting! We were welcomed by Isaac the friendly camp manager. The unit was immaculate.

We love Gharagab – remote and peaceful with only 4 units …divine… We went to have a quick nap in the heat of the day with our cooling towels but… we had a couple next door whose phone kept ringing every few minutes followed by loud talking … We gave up on our nap after 15mins of this intrusive cacophony.

It is a lovey set up. We ate delicious toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches.

We put the anti-lion grids over the tyres just in case!

We strolled to the lookout tower to see what we could spot…. I could see a lion moving way ahead in the distance … he would almost certainly be coming for a drink later!

Sunset was stunning…

The colours are just magnificent and the background noise is that of barking geckos – magical.

The barking geckos are NOT easy to photograph!

As soon as the sun set our lion came for a drink! People were shining spotlights and then started arguing?! Sounded like beef between our neighbours and their neighbours and then we heard the camp manager arrive and have heated a word with them … all of which startled the lion who ran for his life – not sure what happened but all seemed to calm down… … oh well… we then sat there enjoying the peace and listening to the owls calling.

Lion strolling past our unit…

We turned off our lights to enjoy the night sky and noticed that the neighbours had a massive spotlight shining straight at us… I managed to get their attention and they said that they could not turn it off as run by solar panels … ho hum…. so much for photographing the stars! Beyond comprehension. They clearly have no idea how intrusive this was … grrrrr….

We decided to call it a night and went to bed … then their walkie talkies started and kept saying in an irritating high pitched American accent that their battery was low … surely you come to this place to get away from all of this noise!!! We despaired and reluctantly pulled our shutters down in the heat to block the light, put on eye masks and put in earplugs to drown their noise – not what you want to do in the bush when you want to listen to the sounds of lions roaring and hyenas calling ….. ho hum. I woke up intermittently through the night to check the water hole and the lion did come back and drank LOTS. He slept next to the waterhole most of the night.

In the morning we were woken by the camp manager to let us know that the lioness was at the waterhole….we had hoped to spot her cubs but they were not to be seen…probably frightened off by the lights, phones and walkie talkies! LOL. She was our 15th lion of the trip.

We enjoyed our breakfast watching the gemsbok jostling for position at the waterhole and squabbling with the ostrich who patiently waited almost two hours for her turn to drink! Magical! This is why we love this place. If only all residents could be considerate to each other and realise we have all come here to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse ourselves in nature …?!

We left at 10h00 which is when you have to check out and the dunes were a breeze. It was already 40C!!!! Once we were on the main road we bumped in Mohammed and Sharifa who said that a cheetah and tiny cubs were spotted at Polentswa and they were heading in that diection – we had actually seen a car parked up there, perhaps waiting for the same thing. (We do know that they were richly rewarded with fabulous photos!).

We headed to Nossob to check in for our drive to Bitterpan and spotted Kudu on the way.

The 4×4 track to Bitterpan was absolutely fine and even the first dune was a breeze! There were lion tracks on the road!

We did the drive in good time and were allocated No. 3 (would have preferred No.4 at end which we had alst time, but all fine). Apparantly the lions had been in camp for three nights… Two other couples were in residence, Simone and Martin from Switzerland and Martine & Wolfgang from Freiberg in Germany – very pleasant. Unbearably hot – soared to 44C! We made toated cheese and tomato sandwiches and read and did crosswords. Thank god for the cooling towels!

Sunset was spectacular…

What an amazing place… the light just got better and better!

Paul cooked a delicious chicken casserole and we tried to photograph barking geckos. Jackals and gemsbok frequented the waterhole all night.

At dawn we had two brown hyenas come to drink followed by jackals. An AfricanWildcat had passed through too and a noisy crow kept us company for breakfast.

The brown hyenas moved so fast it was difficult to get a photo other than a blurry brown haze!

This was the first time that we took the longer exit route as the last time we were here we were in a 2×2! The road was fine as it had recently been graded as we could see when we exited. A cicada flew into the car! We spotted a herd of eland in the dunes as well as a hyena latrine. When we left at 09h15 it was already 32C!

By now the heat was unbearable 45C! We could barely summon the energy to make lunch at Kamqua!

Delicious lunch!

We were heading for our final destination when we finally saw a cheetah- a pregnant Mama on a fresh springbok kill that she was too hot to eat! We left her to rest in the shade.

Next stop, Urikaruus! Hoorah! Last night though 🙁 We were allocated No. 3. We tried to have a sleep but despite the ceiling fan the heat was just intolerable and we gave up and decided that we would rather be in the aircondtitioned car!

We had a few interesting sightings for our late afternoon drive.

We got back to camp in time for sunset and I tried to video the magnificence of the moment…unfortunately the lady in the next door unit was on the phone to her daughter and was shrieking down the phone at the top of her voice. I eventually got so frustrated that I said at the top of my voice how her phone call was ruining the ambiance… her husband told her to be quiet and she went inside … but we could still hear her shrieking for another 20 mins while she yelled down the receiver – it truly beggars belief. We then heard her phone ringing several times – surely you come here to get away from all of this?! Grrrr.

Finally managed to take a bit of video when the neighbour’s husband told her to go inside the unit and talk there – but you can still hear her …!

Dinner was lamp chops and salad – delicious … while we were enjoying our food eland, cape fox and the lions made an appearance!

They spent the entire night sleeping at the water hole – which of course deterred the leopard sighting we were hoping for … but we could not complain! 🙂 A storm rolled in and lightening lit up the sky… Amazing!

We woke at first light and we had a good look around and only spotted jackal so made the decision to take a game drive at 05h30. The cheetah had eaten the hind quarters of the springbok and her belly was HUGE! She went to have a poo and then back to the carcass.

We headed back for breakfast and to ta pack up.

This crow was begging – just LOVE their vocalisations! Especially the tap water sound! LOL.

At 10h00 it was 40C! We drove slowly back towards TR wishing it was not our last day… one final cheetah sighting was gratefully recived!

Aswe approached Saamevloeing we saw some legs and thought it was a human outside of their vehicle…as we came closer we saw it was in fact a lion taking shade from them and another lion next to them! What a way to finish another epic trip! AMAZING. Total of 21 different lions this trip. 2 Cheetah, 3 brown hyena and Zero leopard …until next time….

A great end to another great trip… we cannot wait to be back…

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