buddy4344

Kgalagadi, Feb 2017 - The Green Kalahari, A Photographer's Tale

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I've about finished editing a few hundred images from my 15 days in the Kalahari and will shortly begin my trip report. Meanwhile, this video is a short 'tease' of the trip.

 

https://youtu.be/6FfiXWzteEY

 

I hope you enjoy this 3 minute overview. I promise to begin the tale shortly.

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Oh boy, Kgalagadi delivered to you big time! Almost sorry that I will have to wait over 4 weeks to read your TR as it will surely be spectacular!!

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What a teaser! Some incredible photography and sightings: Brown Hyena, Cheeta kill etc. I was there, too in February this year and it's a magical place. Looking forward to your trip report!

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PRELUDE TO THE TRIP

 

My love of Africa and wildlife photography dates back to 2006 and a trip to Chobe National Park with my wildlife safari mentor and friend, Paul Salvado. Paul and his wife, Patsy, organize several trips a year for fellow South Africans. Many of these are self-drive trips. I was lucky enough to be introduced to Paul via his son-in-law and my co-worker, Rob Holmes. Over the years, I’ve been on several self-drive trips with Paul to Chobe NP and also to more traditional safari’s at self-catered lodges in Timbavati.

 

In the last several years, Paul has also taken self-drive groups to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP). Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to fit into these trips due to space and/or timing. During our other trips (to Timbavati), I’ve had the chance to see many of his photos from KTP. Seeing these and having great memories of my prior self-drive trips, I have been eager to visit the KTP. I still hope to travel their with my friend, Paul, but currently that is not scheduled.

 

Some of you may be aware that for the last 7 years, I have also led small groups of photographers to southern Africa a few times each year. Through this activity and my general love of African wildlife, I’ve gotten to know many African photographers and have befriended many others via social media outlets such as FaceBook. One of these photographers is Andrew Aveley. I’ve known him via social media for years, but until mid-2017, I had never met him in person.

 

In July 2017, I led a group traveling to both Chobe NP, Botswana and Jaci’s Tree House Lodge in Madikwe, South Africa. One day at Jaci’s, I was relaxing during the mid-day break at Jaci’s when Andrew Aveley walked up to me and introduced himself. He was teaching photography at jaci’s and had noted I was in camp. We instantly became friends and spent several hours over the next few days talking wildlife and destinations. During those conversations, Andrew noted that he loved photographing in the KTP and was thinking of a trip in Feb. 2018. I jumped at the opportunity and told Andrew once he had finalized plans, I would love to join him on the trip.

 

Time passed and in November, 2017 Andrew contacted me with a schedule for 14 nights in KTP with a mix of stays in chalets as well as camping. The group would be 4 of us with 2 vehicles and spending some time at Twee Rivieren, Mata Mata and Nossob. This sounded perfect and I immediately started paperwork to get my one year Wild Card for SA National Parks and started shopping for airfares to Upington. The Kalahari was finally going to happen for me!

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Buddy, it is an excited prelude ... both for the readers and for the writer. However, if you have not meet also dr.Emmet Brown, you might want to correct your dates :rolleyes: ! Or we are about to wait another long 12 months for actual trip report :( ?

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Buddy, it is an excited prelude ... both for the readers and for the writer. However, if you have not meet also dr.Emmet Brown, you might want to correct your dates :rolleyes: ! Or we are about to wait another long 12 months for actual trip report :( ?

 

My screw up. I met Andrew in July 2016.

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The plan was finalized and I found some inexpensive tickets on South African Airways from New York (JFK) to Jo’burg (JNB). Unfortunately, the deal was not as good for the JNB to Upington leg, but with only one airline serving Upington and only 2 flights there per day, what can one do? The connection in JNB was suppose to be tight, but not terrible – 3 hours. Unfortunately, storms in both Africa and New York delayed our take-off and arrival times by 1 ½ hours. I literally pushed through immigration/customs and ran to my gate. As Upington is served by SA Airlink, one must re-check bags at the domestic check-in kiosk, which is not close to the international baggage claim/customs exit. This haul while running with camera gear and luggage was painful, but at least it increased chances that the luggage made it to Upington.

 

I did make the flight and slept until arrival at Upington. Several things struck me upon arrival:

 

· Amazingly long runway for a small airport – I researched this when I got home. At 16,076 feet in length, it’s the 7th longest runway in the world. One source said Upington Airport's runway was built to accommodate a Boeing 747 with a full load of passengers, cargo and fuel, so that it could take off for Europe without having to stop along the way. Another source said it was an alternate emergency landing site for the U.S. space shuttle. I’m not really sure why it was so long but it was.

· The next amazing thing about Upington is the solar power tower. On approaching the airport, I saw this extremely bright light on a tower with a weird luminosity in the sky around it. In talking to a fellow passenger, I learned that this is the Khi Solar One power station.This solar field is made of more than 4,000 heliostats, totaling up to 576,800 m2 (6,209,000 sq ft) of mirror surface, focusing solar energy on a boiler located on top a centralized 205-metre-high (673 ft) tower. Impressive.

· Last, but certainly not least, I was amazed at how nice, modern and clean the terminal was. It was hard to believe that this airport was built for just a few flights a day.

 

My friend, Andrew, along with the others of our group, Richard and Josh, were waiting for me upon arrival and having drinks and lunch when I arrived mid-day. We immediately hit the road for the several hour drive up to the park entrance at Twee Rivieren.

Andrew had book all of our lodging and campsites and our final plans were as follows:

 

· Feb 11 - 12 Twee Rivieren – 2 room Chalet

· Feb 13 – 17 Mata Mata – Camping/tents

· Feb 18 – 21 Nossob – Camping/Tents

· Feb 22/ 23 Twee Rivieren – 2 room Chalet

· Feb 24 – morning photography, then to Upington for flight home

 

The mix of camping and chalets may confuse some. The logic was pretty simple. Upon arrival, we were going to be too tired to set up tents and we would also be eager to have a few sightings – so chalet the first night or two. Once we were more into the Kalahari, we would have more time and we wanted the more rustic and lower cost option of camping. More on that later. On the last days, it would be nice having a chalet to organize gear and relax before departure.

 

Checking into the park was fairly quick as I had emailed Andrew my Wild pass and passport info and he had the required paperwork for the rest of the group also. Within a half hour of arrival, we were unloading at our chalet for night one. Around 4 pm, we headed out for the first game drive. Not a particularly eventful set of sightings, but enough to let us know that the future was bright!

 

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I never noticed that the Upington runway is so long! I did noticed that the road between Upington and Twee Rivieren (not entirely) is set for car testing purposes (with relevant roadsigns). And I did noticed the bright light, but never investigated the source. Thanks for interesting info.

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Posted (edited)

Great start and wonderful photos. This is going to be a treat! Looking forward to more.

 

P.S. Love the music on your video. It really establishes an African mood.

Edited by Alexander33
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Promises to be a cool trip report @@buddy4344! Kgalagadi is awesome so I'm looking forward to the rest of the report! :)

 

Cheers,

 

Michel

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I have heard the story about Upington being an emergency landing ground for the shuttles, but I expect the truth is probably more archaic.

 

During the Apartheid years, SAA had to take a wide detour to get to Europe, as none of the other countries in Africa or southern Europe would allow over-flight by South African aircraft.

 

Thus, they had to fly west from JHB, out over the ocean and then turn north. This really stretched the fuel capacity of the 747's in use at the time. SAA 747's were always highly polished, as this stretched the fuel range by a couple of hundred kilometers, and the fact that they had to go to that type of extreme means that they were really pushing the limits.

 

Thus, Upington was the only feasable emergency ground for these planes, but because it is so hot, the runway had to be really long.

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Day 2 - Twee Rivieren

 

We had a 2-bedroom chalet with a small ‘kitchen’. On our arrival night, we ate at the restaurant located at the camp. The menu was actually pretty good and prices reasonable. I’m not sure I was aware that would be the last food prepared by an actual cook before returning to America two weeks later. 😊 As I recall I had a pasta dish with springbok in it, but … my memory is foggy.

 

While I’ve been wanting to go to the KTF for a very long time, I was a little apprehensive in that many of the photos I have seen on the internet in the months prior to this specific trip were bird photos. I do enjoy photographing birds, but as an American who has taken many to Africa, I must state that due to distance and other options such as Costa Rico, it would be hard to make Africa a ‘birding only’ destination for most Americans. Those photos that were not birds, were often of smaller specialty wildlife of the KTF such as jackals and brown hyena. Again, don’t bet me wrong, I find the brown hyena to be a fascinating looking animal – a strange mix long fur and stripes.

 

My first ‘official’ game drive started with …. You guessed it …. Lots of photos of birds. Maybe the most interesting of these was a Kori Bustard chasing insects.

 

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I was beginning to have concerns when we found … you guessed it …. Jackels. Nice to shoot. We are having some fun. We move forward to a water hole that Andrew tells me always produces, Kij Kij. It does, but not with my big cats. We see … you guessed it, hyena. Actually, this was a nice double sighting as we had a beautiful brown hyena and then two spotted hyena. One spotted hyena was much smaller than the other and the other hyena was EXTREMELY PREGNANT. We could literally see the babies moving around below the hide of this female. She was covered in mud, I guess to cool off from the near 30 C heat of the day.

 

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Moving onward, we spotted oryx … I tried many compositions to vary what I was seeing.springbok

 

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and then springbok …. And then more

 

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…. And then more birds, including ostrich. I have seen ostrich on several safari trips in the past, most notably in northern Botswana, Madikwe and in Etosha, but at this point, I still don’t have the great ostrich shots I’m hoping for. I’m not sure what a great ostrich shot will be, but I figure I will know it once I have it. Regardless, I liked this shot as this was my first time seeing an ostrich nursery. It was fun watching the babies run about.

 

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I smiled thinking, “Patience, you’ve been on safari before. You know it’s not a zoo. Like you tell your clients, be patient!”.

 

With the sun was getting low, I finally found my elusive cats – three cheetah at a waterhole. Not only did we get some nice shots of the cats leaving the water hole, but we were also blessed by golden light shots as the animals moved along a ridge. I just might like this place!

 

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I forgot my Kori Bustard eating flies in the prior post!

 

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Great start to the trip. Brown Hyena and cheetah!

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lovely photo's especially the brown hyena and those pesky birds! @@buddy4344

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beautiful brown hyena and cheetahs! like those flies delivering themselves to the koribustard.

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Beautiful photographs @@buddy4344. I'm looking forward to the rest of your trip report. I suspect we're in for a treat! :-)

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Great photography @@buddy4344 and some wonderful sightings already!

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@buddy4344 Love the report so far, just found it.  The photos in the video combined with the music are so evocative, makes me want to jump on a plane to get there right now! Of course the other photos posted are great too. Hope there will be more soon!

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Super start to the trip report. Waiting for more!

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