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Elephant and leopard safari 2011 Part 2 : 3 weeks with Masson Safaris in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) and the Okavango Delta.


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#1 Treepol

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 08:40 AM

Part 1 of this trip report described our safari at Shindzela in Timbavati, Umkumbe in Sabi Sand and Mashatu Game Reserve. Part 2 begins with our arrival in Maun, being met by Sallie and Ewan Masson and and transferred to Riley's. The KTP adventure begins next morning as we drive out of Maun headed south with Ewan Masson who was to be our guide for the next 3 weeks in both KTP and the Okavango Delta.

Highlights of KTP were a drive through the scenic Kaa area on the border of Botswana and South Africa, very good birdlife including a crimson breasted shrike with a gecko kill, small animals such striped mice, playful ground squirrels and yellow mongoose, a hyena with pups and a dramatic red sand backdrop throughout the park.

The itinerary was:

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) - Nossob Rest Camp (3 nights), Gharagab Wilderness Camp (2 nights), Kalahari Tented Camp (2 nights) and Kalahari Rest for 2 nights between Maun and KTP. Photos available at https://picasaweb.go...ansfrontierPark
Mobile camping safari with Masson Safaris. Savute – 4 nights, Khwai – 3 nights and Moremi 3 nights. Photos available at https://picasaweb.go...ica2011Botswana

A selection of photos has been added to the gallery at Safaritalk http://safaritalk.ne...album=486&st=50


We travelled 600 km from Maun and arrived at Kalahari Rest just outside Ghanzi around 3.30 pm, and having settled in enjoyed drinks around the pool and watched kudu and impala drinking form a small waterhole. Kalahari Rest is a pleasant and comfortable camp with tasteful decorations on the main road from Johannesburg to Maun. Next morning we left at 6am for Nossob Rest Camp with a short stop for coffee and rusks before pushing on to arrive at Kaa Gate. We drove south through the Bushman village of Zustwa and then down the old Kaa road through the very scenic Kaa concession. Ewan completed paperwork at the ranger post and we were on the way to Nossob.

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Our first sighting of lion in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) was a large paw waving in the breeze. At Nossob we are staying in units 11A and 11B which are well situated on the hill behind the main camp and have a resident yellow mongoose right outside the accommodation. Ewan was cook this trip as ‘the guys’ stayed in Maun – tasty beef and groundnut stew for dinner.

Next morning we left Nossob at 7.30 am remarking on the cool weather. In addition to the usual suspects of oryx, hartebeest, wildebeest, ostrich, springbok and jackal we saw 2 male lion hunkered down out of the biting wind near Langklaas and later a young cheetah with a very small cub that was still in its ‘honey badger’ stage.

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Driving north to Union’s End (the border between Namibia, Botswana and South Africa) we saw many lion tracks but no lion. We arrived at Gharaghab Wilderness Camp around 2.30 and settled in (we had booked the whole camp). Late in the afternoon we took a short drive to a nearby waterhole where we saw a Lanner falcon, cape starlings, yellow canary, scaly-feathered finches, doves and sociable weavers. Dinner was lamb chops, peas and potatoes before a hot shower and early to bed.

Set off early next morning after an oatmeal breakfast. It was extremely cold with frost lying on the red dunes, although a hardy oryx had come to drink in the pre-dawn light at the waterhole. The cold weather had sent the animals to ground and the game drive was very quiet until a coalition of 3 male cheetahs crossed the road right in front of the vehicle. They moved steadily up the hill before disappearing over a distant sand ridge. Morning tea was at Union’s End before returning to camp. The birds around the camp included crimson-breasted shrike, chestnut-vented tit babblers, yellow canary, red-eyed bulbul, Marico flycatchers and greater kestrels. Shy striped mice live close to the tents, venturing out from the shade of the bushes when no predators are overhead.


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Next day we left Gharaghab at 7.30, and saw the usual suspects along the wayside. There were 2 lionesses and 6 cubs at Polenswa and distant cheetah both sides of Kwang. Continued to Nossob for morning tea and Dikbaards kolk for lunch where we shared the picnic site with Cape Glossy Starlings, Marico flycatchers and sociable weavers.

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During the 53 km drive to the Auob River bed we saw many springbok and wildebeest and 21 bat-eared foxes. Along the way we stopped to admire a pygmy falcon, black-shouldered kites and a large family of ground squirrels at Dalkieth.

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Kalahari Tented Camp is a beautifully sited camp overlooking the dry Auob riverbed. The large tents are warmed by all-day sun and have a separate kitchen. Lions called from close behind the camp during the night. Next morning we left for a drive down the valley where we saw a hyena and 2 pups and a lioness on the sand ridge outlined against the morning sky and giraffe.

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Returning to camp we saw a distant cheetah, and were surprised when a large male leopard crossed the road in front of us. Other sightings this morning included giraffe and a jackal buzzard.

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During the afternoon game drive we watched a cheetah unsuccessfully hunting springbok over the crest of the dune, returning later to call 4 3-4 month old cubs from near the side of the road. A lioness had staked out a herd of springbok and although we waited for half an hour she did not hunt.

Next morning we were out of camp early. Ewan almost convinced a German guy that the rear hatch cover was a table for feeding the giraffe – he may still be wondering if the story was true.

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We tracked a male lion along the road for about 15 km before finally locating him between Craig Lockhart and Dalkeith.

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Other sights included a bat-eared fox family grooming outside their den, giraffe and the first KTP kudu. Arrived at Nossob in time for lunch and a free afternoon during Caryl spent lots of time with the camp ground wildlife. During the afternoon game drive around Marie Se Draai where we watched oryx and kudu at the waterhole and 3 lions on a distant hill.

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Next morning we headed north and found a great eagle owl south of Kwang and 3 cheetah north of Bedinkt.

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There were 2 females and 1 male and Ewan thought they had recently separated from their mother as they were quite thin, one of the females particularly so.

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The three lions resting in the shade of a tree about 10 km north of Nossob bought the lion count to 21 which when added to 15 cheetah and 1 leopard points to a healthy cat population in KTP. We joined the Sanparks afternoon drive and saw more bat-eared and by spotlight an African wildcat and Cape Fox after which we had a magnificent feast of roast beef fillet, rice, peas and gravy. Next day we left for Kang, returning through the Kaa region to arrive at Kalahari Rest around 5 pm.

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Early departure next morning saw us arrive at the Tree Lodge in time for lunch and a lazy afternoon. We resisted the pressure to stay at the villa which is about 2 km from the lodge. It has 3 separate en suite rooms with a large lounge, dining and kitchen space. The bathrooms were huge with deep sunken baths – for the tentfanciers! During the drive to the villa we saw giraffe, oryx, zebra and kudu all of which run free on the reserve. We were told that due to lack of feed and population growth some of the animals were being sold, giraffes in particular. I held out for the tents which were as I remembered from 2004, stylish and comfortable. Enjoyed afternoon tea on the deck under the Motsentsela trees and saw an African Barred Owl, red-billed francolin, many arrow-marked babblers and a yellow canary.

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Okavango to follow in about a week.

Edited by Treepol, 11 September 2011 - 08:44 AM.

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#2 pault

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 11:27 AM

Great - sounds like you were not disappointed by what KTP (abbreviation is good!) has to offer. Very much enjoyed reading about it and your sightings (your "highlight" of Red-breasted Shrike with gecko kill might have been surpassed in some people's eyes! How would you rate the park overall, and the way you chose to do this (from the Botswana side)? What did your traveling companions think of it?

The vehicle looks a little closed up, but I guess chosen because of the long road trip and the cold? Was it that cold?

Nick had told us that Ewan is a very good cook.

I thought for sure you'd fallen like the German for a tall tale when you mentioned Craiglockhart (I'll stick with the original spelling) and Dalkeith, but a quick googling showed that indeed someone from Edinburgh must have named them! :)

Waiting again... for the next time again


#3 pault

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 11:32 AM

Love the mongoose, ground squirrels and eagle owl. And I note that looking at the full gallery of shots after reading this, it all makes a lot more sense and is a lot more interesting.... the jackal shot is very nice.

And you have a video at the end... with commentary from Ewan.

Edited by pault, 11 September 2011 - 11:41 AM.

Waiting again... for the next time again


#4 matnikstym

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 05:47 PM

Great report and pictures. Brought back many memories of my trip to KTP. You had better luck with cheetah an leopard! Thanks!

#5 cris

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Posted 11 September 2011 - 07:09 PM

Again, a great report. Loving your photos. The ground squirrels seem so comical. That crimson-breasted shrike looks like he's playing one of the childhood board-games Operation. Great shots.

#6 Treepol

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 09:13 AM

Hi,

thanks for the feedback, I'm pleased to share my safari memories with keen Safaritalkers.

@pault - I know what you mean about calling a shrike kill a highlight, however for me on a 4th safari it was ;). So too was getting a decent photo of one of these very active birds! I'd rate KTP very high as a prime dryland park - my inspiration came from trawling the Traveller's Tales section of the Sanparks forum where I was very taken by the scenic backdrop of the red dunes and the immense variety of sightings reported by other travellers. KTP offers a choice of accommodation that includes the traditional rest camps at Two Rivers, Mata Mata and Nossob and the wonderful wilderness camps.

We stayed at Gharaghab, each having one of the existing 4 chalets. Gharaghab is very isolated, 32 km drive in from the 'main' road which in that part of the park I thought was quite isolated enough! We had booked to have the first night at Bitterpan but when Sanparks relaised we were coming from Kang they knew we'd never make it so we stayed at Nossob instead. Also had 2 nights at Kalahari Tented Camp which is a larger complex with 15 chalets overlooking the Auob River bed.

I don't think we saw the amount and variety of game that other traveller's report, and I may have pitched my expectations too high. We were unlucky with very cold weather at Gharaghab which may have kept the animals in their holes. However, KTP is excellent for big cats (some sightings may be distant), small rodents especially those cute striped mice and large antelope like oryx and hartebeest. We were lucky with bat-eared foxes seeing 21 in a one day, some good birds of prey that included jackal buzzard, pygmy falcon and secretary birds. Other traveller's report frequent sightings of meerkat, brown hyena, snakes and this is what I had hoped for - like I said I may have set my sights too high, or perhaps I was just being greedy :o

I know its unusual to enter from Botswana, however as we had booked Ewan and he lives in Maun, that is where we started from. It was a good option because it removed transit nights in Joburg and flights to Upington and gained a quality guide who we had travelled with in 2008 to the CKGR. We had to be in Maun anyway for the Delta trip and the departure for the last segment was so much easier when we were just staying next door at the Tree Lodge!

My travelling companions really enjoyed KTP for the game viewing, red sand and the contrast it provided to the Kruger and Delta areas. We would all happily make a second visit.

The vehicle had to be closed in order to comply with Sanparks regulations. However, as Ewan is a resourceful fellow we did have the option of lowering the windscreen and the open roof hatches ensured fresh air and sunshine. Yes, it was cold in the mornings, particularly at Gharaghab. Ewan cooked well for us, he does a great lunchtime fry-up! Those Scottish waterhole names are unexpected aren't they, there must be a story behind them.

I've only got the one movie in KTP, however I'll include more in the Delta report.

@matnikstym - I'm pleased that these photos bought back memories for you.

@cris - Operation, I don't think I know that one but I get the general idea :).



Regards,


Pol
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#7 Kavey

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 11:26 PM

Loved reading about your trip and of course, seeing the photos. Some lovely shots, love that ground squirrel leaping!
"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
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"I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees."
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#8 DrG

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Posted 17 September 2011 - 04:26 PM

We tracked a male lion along the road for about 15 km before finally locating him between Craig Lockhart and Dalkeith.


Hi Treepol,

Sounds like you had a fabulous trip. Great photos and info. My wife and I spent 10 days in the KTP almost exactly a year ago, and I looked longingly at the road east toward Botswana on several occasions. We also stayed in Gharagab, timed perfectly for my 40th and had fabulous views of brown hyaena there.

However, the reason I type is because I note that the pic of the male lion associated with this quote above is sporting some quills, and below I post a pic of I guess the same lion, as he was sporting about 24 when I saw him. This is my first reply, and not sure whether I have inserted the link correctly! I wondered how he would cope with the extra finery as the quill in his cheek was in deep.... but I guess probably the most accessible. Anyway, will go and read part 1 of your trip now

Cheers, DrG

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#9 Kavey

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Posted 19 September 2011 - 10:23 AM

Dr G, welcome! :)
"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
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"I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees."
Alfred Tennyson

#10 Jochen

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Posted 25 September 2011 - 04:40 PM

>> Ewan almost convinced a German guy that the rear hatch cover was a table for feeding the giraffe – he may still be wondering if the story was true.

* chuckles *

Typically Ewan!

:lol:

#11 samburumags

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Posted 27 September 2011 - 10:04 AM

Great photos, especially the first one with the two male lions, looking forward to the next bit
But, in the gathering darkness, deep behind my soul, someone, something whispers "Africa"" (Mark Owens "Secrets of the Savannah")

#12 Treepol

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 06:17 AM

@ Dr G - welcome to the forum. Thanks for posting the lion photo with the quills, no wonder he looks a bit disgruntled! I wonder if it is the same fellow?
Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.

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#13 Treepol

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 07:01 AM

Finally, I've managed to get back to the TR to write up the final segment.

Okavango Delta

More photos available here.

Ewan arrived at the Tree Lodge just before 10 am and we set out on the 5 hour drive to Savute. Along the way, we saw kudu, elephant and impala before stopping for lunch outside Mababe Gate where we were joined by 2 very persistent yellow-billed hornbills. A teenage bull mock charged the car but turned tail when Ewan insisted that he ‘don’t be silly’. We then drove slowly to Hatab 27 where Vincent, Kazi and Bendigo had set up a very comfortable camp complete with a shady mess tent. There are lamps on the table during dinner and also outside each tent and before dinner we sit around the campfire discussing the day’s sightings with a gin and tonic close at hand.

This was my second visit to Savute, Khwai and Moremi, the first being in May 2004 on a Wilderness Dawning mobile safari. The area is completely different due to all the water and many of the roads we used in 2004 are now under water. I noticed that the HATAB campsites are nowhere near as well kept, there are more safari companies and more vehicles in the park. I was dismayed at the number and size of vehicles bringing day visitors into the Reserve around South Gate. I was also really pleased to meet up with Bebe the guide from 2004. It was great to hear that he and his family are doing well and to hear his family news.

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Next morning the wake-up is at 6 am, followed shortly by hot water for an early morning wash. A quick breakfast of oatmeal, tea and rusks and we depart for the morning game drive by 6.40. Near the main road we see our nocturnal visitor, an elephant who we heard rumbling around camp during the night together with kudu, wildebeest , giraffe, impala, tssebe and warthog. Birds included yellow and red-billed hornbills, Bradfield’s and grey hornbills, marabou stork, grey heron and a pearl spotted owl that was keenly watching a raucous toad. The toad eventually made it across the road to safety in the water.

The plain that we criss-crossed in 2004 is now all marsh. There is a lot of water in Savute and Ewan estimated that the Channel was now around 6 metres deep in some places, many roads are now impassable. We drove to the edge of the channel, near the site of the former President’s lodge where we heard trumpeting that preceded 3 elephants with a baby coming to drink. These animals looked to be in poor condition – thin, tired and dusty and Ewan thought they may have just arrived in Savute. Further up the channel a fish eagle perched over the water and a herd of impala graze peacefully.

Later in the afternoon we saw 8 bull elephants bathing at Harvey’s Pan – they walked in very slowly from the mopane trees, stopping to drink and squirt water before some sank into a mud pool for a wallow before plodding off slowly over the grass plain.

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The elephant returned during the night and munched on the mopane behind Ewan’s tent. Next morning we drove down the eastern side of the marsh where Ewan spotted a lechwe hidden deep in the reeds with only his distinctive horns showing. The roads are slowly being inundated with water, and we stopped to watch a plethora of waterbirds – grey and squacco herons, cattle and great egrets, jacanas, pied kingfisher, yellow-billed and saddle-billed storks, white-faced whistling ducks, red-billed teal, little grebe, Egyptian geese and a marabou stork. We returned to Hatab 22 in the Old Seep where the guys had made a new camp for us and prepared a delicious lunch that included Vincent’s memorable warm home made bread, tuna bake and a green salad. Coincidentally, this was the same camp that I had stayed during the 2004 safari. I recognized it because it is in a dip, however elephant damage to the trees around the campsite had changed it considerably.

During the afternoon game drive we saw big elephant, small elephant, wet elephant, dry elephant…all were out and about in Savute. Ewan told us that a few years ago the area was almost exclusively populated with bull elephants, however now that the Channel is flowing the breeding herds have returned. We also saw a herd of young wildebeest, nearly all were calves from last season, 6 large male kudu all with impressive sets of horns and a cheeky yellow mongoose. Our nocturnal visitors included an elephant that munched away behind my tent, dropping leaves on the roof for twenty or so minutes before he ambled off to keep Caryl awake and a honey badger that rattled (should that be rateled?) the pots and pans in the kitchen.

We left camp at 6.40 the next morning to travel to the southern area of the marsh in search of lions passing hammerkop and many white crowned shrikes. Lions were calling from Jackal Island but there was no access to the area. However, as the road became increasingly waterlogged we turned back, stopping to watch a large herd of wildebeest moving up the western side of the marsh – their dusty trail and grunting reminded me of the migration in the western Serengeti that we had seen in 2008. We searched unsuccessfully for the leopard that had been seen at Wild Dog Pan before starting back to camp for lunch. A small herd of roan antelope were drinking at a waterhole and with them was a confused oryx, a remarkable looking animal with one normal horn and one that looked to be growing downwards. Roan are such attractive animals with beautifully marked faces.

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Closer to the channel a family of banded mongoose were foraging and ground hornbill were booming away.

We ran the ‘elephant gauntlet’ once again to drive down the eastern side of the marsh where an estimated 500-1,000 elephants were visible.

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Actually, the elephants had all gone to the marsh for the weekend (this was a Friday afternoon) as that area was thick with them and we saw only a couple on the way back to camp. One of these was a musth bull that we took a quick detour around only to cross paths with another agitated bull – Ewan surmised that it had probably had an altercation with the musth male and was looking to vent his frustration on the next thing to come along. The last sighting was a magical moment - at dusk, a bull walked peacefully along the road towards the vehicle, filling our forward view. Ewan switched off and we watched this big guy ambling towards us through the loose sand – before he reached us he turned away from the road and disappeared into the night. A fitting end to the Savute safari.

Reflections on Savute are dominated by the rising water – Ewan estimated that the marsh is up to 20-25 kilometres long, 12 kilometres across, although it could be as shallow as 15cm in places. The Channel is flowing very quickly past the ranger’s station and a new lodge has been built in the public campsite – rates (from memory) were $545 pppns in the high season. Elephants were everywhere and entertaining to watch feeding, bathing, playing, play fighting or striding out across the marsh. The images that I have bought home with me are:

• waterlogged roads
• hopping hornbills
• noisy cape and glossy and long-tailed starlings
• elephants big, small, wet, dry
• mopane stumps
• a lilac breasted in (almost) every tree
• francolin ‘alarm clocks’

Next morning we left Savute for Khwai and were amused by African Conservation Trust staff releasing a hyena just 10 minutes from the public campsite. We asked why they were releasing it so close and they said it wasn’t their target animal. Shortly after, a honey badger was fossicking about in the early sun.

It was delightful to see Sallie at Moremi South Gate where we stopped for lunch and later checked out the new bridge at Khwai. Sallie joined our camp for 3 days – lovely to see her again and to benefit from the skill of 2 great guides on our Khwai game drives. The old bridge that we had used in 2004 was now under water.

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Our camp at Khwai is at Hatab 5 well away form the road and on the edge of the rising water. Vincent measured the rising water with a stick and during the first night it gained 15 cm. As we arrived in camp a young saddle-backed stork was quietly fishing his way around the edge and impala and red lechwe graze across on the far bank. This shallow waterhole which we came to know as ‘our swamp’ provided views of waterbirds from the tents and at night we could hear the animals wading through the water – the slow drag of elephant and the more delicate stepping of lechwe and zebra.

During the afternoon game drive we saw zebra, wattled plover, wattled crane, ground hornbill and more lechwe.

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At sundowner time, about 5,000 frogs (so it seemed) are noisily croaking, a hippo is grunting nearby and lions are calling about 5 km away. Camp was quite busy during the night as the 2 male lions moved down the road 100 m from camp and may have been responsible for a zebra stampede – I woke up and hoped nothing tripped over the guy ropes! Later impala began hissing and snorting and an elephant waded through the swamp to munch away over the water. Next morning we searched in vain for these lions until we were turned back by water – we came to refer to these guys as the famous levitating lions of Khwai. We did see a giraffe that was almost black – so dark the pattern was mostly obscured – I wonder if it is possible to have a melanistic giraffe? There was a pelican roosting in a dead tree and further along 6 hippos floated in a pool.

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We stopped for morning tea at the former public camp site and were gently chided by a local staff member about using the now privately owned facility. The baboons provided entertainment as they played and groomed in the morning sun.

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Driving back to camp we saw many ‘mongai’ – slender, dwarf and banded.

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Hippo Pools did not live up to its name – we only saw one from the very rickety lookout. There was an amusing sign on the public toilets at this stop very politely asking people not to use this area as a toilet! Later we saw a Nile monitor, a side-striped jackal and 2 new birds for me a Southern black tit and an Arnotts chat, a tidy black and white bird found only in the mopane forest. The afternoon was very hot and from my tent I could see long-tailed starlings, red lechwe grazing on the island in the middle of the swamp, jacanas, fork-tailed drongos and an egret. A hippo honked in a neighbouring pool.

During the afternoon game drive we saw the first spoonbills of the trip and ‘hooding’ black egrets making a shade with their wings to assist fishing. At dusk we stopped to watch 2 honey badgers on the Hippo Pools road. The day was capped off with 2 bird silhouettes – a roosting pelican near a waterhole and a great eagle owl on a branch hanging over the road.

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Arriving back at camp on dark we drove very carefully through 3-4 jumpy elephant families that were hard to see I the dark, an experience not for the faint-hearted.

Next morning we found the footprints of the levitating lions close to camp, and although we drove 18 km searching, they continued to elude us. Perhaps they had been helicoptered out at dawn??? There was a large troop of baboons near Khwai gate and a dead baboon near the water tank – shot by the Wildlife Dept for causing a nuisance at the campsite. Later we enjoyed morning tea on the banks of the Khwai River where we watched hippo and lechwe. Returning to camp we saw a female leopard at Colonel’s Loop and vervet monkeys.

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Later in the afternoon a large Nile monitor was seen making its way through the swamp.

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Next day Sallie returned to Maun and we left for our last camp in the Mopane Tongue area. During the drive we saw honey badgers and a herd of zebras before stopping in Khwai village to buy baskets. We turned off for Hatab 14 at South Gate where 6 giraffes were grazing and a gymnogene was searching for food in a tall, dead tree. Closer to the water we saw a brilliantly coloured malachite kingfisher and 2 lionesses making a poor show of stalking warthog.

Hatab 14 is at the edge of a hippo pool, and we heard the locals many times – great background music. The resident jacana could usually be found slowly wading along the edge of the water just in front of camp.

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The first afternoon we found a wounded lone hippo quite close to camp and later we would hear him honking in response to those in the pool closer to camp. We searched in vain for the lionesses seen earlier in the day, however they had vanished. At dusk, a long line of elephants held us up as they crossed the road after which we had a close sighting of a watchful great eagle owl perched in a low overhanging branch. We enjoyed sundown reflections of squacco herons, slaty egrets and jacanas on the return to camp and the last sighting of the day was a hippo in a pool of yellow light at sunset.

The chorus of thousands of raucous toads and bell frogs continued through the night and was at full voice at 3 am. After waking very early we set out on the morning game drive and found a black-backed jackal digging for grubs beneath the remains of a giraffe kill. Shortly after we found 2 young honey badgers, a couple of buffalo and a group of about 45 hippo when we stopped for morning tea. It was difficult to decide who was watching who at this pool!

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A large flock of open-billed storks flew overhead whilst we were stopped and a herd of zebra came to drink cautiously at the water’s edge. A big group of banded mongoose ran determinedly alongside the vehicle as we returned to camp.

We drove to Second Bridge to see a ‘pile of lions’ reported by a day safari group, however they were nowhere to be found when we arrived - in hindsight Ewan believed they had mixed up the bridges and that the lions were at Third Bridge. However, we did see herds of zebra and wildebeest between First and Second Bridges. The guys radioed through to say that a lion had walked through camp and we returned to find a muddy, wet lioness lying just behind the ‘kitchen’ calling for her sisters. Ewan spoke for all of us when he said ‘I hope you’re not going to lie there all night making that noise.’ The guys said she had left 2 males across the channel and swum across in search of other pride members. The frogs were eerily quiet this night, perhaps a night heron was patrolling the pool.

Next day we set out for Third Bridge, stopping to sit with a male lion lying close to camp, one of the 3 that roared around camp last night.

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We drove past many impala and followed a herd of around 500 buffalo moving out of the delta into the reserve. Ewan checked around the stragglers to make sure lions weren’t following.

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Other vehicles had reported 2 male cheetahs closer to Third Bridge but these had melted away from the numerous lodge vehicles in the area. We did find a bloated male lion, so full that he could hardly waddle to the shade of a nearby tree.

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Alwyn Myburgh told Ewan that wild dog had made a kill at Fourth Bridge earlier in the morning, sadly too late for us to make the trip with any certainty of seeing the dogs.

The last morning dawned and we set out for a slow return to Maun. The first sighting was of a male civet, it looked to be slinking like a leopard, but wasn’t as big. We searched, but the animal had literally ‘gone to ground’ and we didn’t see it again. Closer to South Gate we found a female cheetah wearing a huge collar – I felt very sorry for the animal having to carry such a large tracking equipment, although it didn’t appear to impede her movement. This sighting was enhanced by some very aggressive tree squirrels that constantly alarm called – so noisy.


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This was a fine sighting to end the Okavango safari and too soon we were on the road to Maun and the beginning of the long trip home.

Planning notes

I have added an album of accommodation photos for those interested in the camps.

Like all well-planned safaris this one changed shape a few times before we settled on the final version. The chief aim of the safari was to spend as much time as possible in top wildlife viewing locations and to include a variety of habitats. We preferred clean and comfortable accommodation rather than ‘lux’ properties and as it turned out the Tree Lodge and Mashatu were the poshest places we stayed. I both drew on my own safari experience to shape the final itinerary and also relied on the views of other travelers for areas I hadn’t visited. This year’s safari was to be shorter than usual as none of us had huge amounts of leave available this year. Therefore, the itinerary was designed to reduce transit time and airport hotel nights in Joburg wherever possible, hence the road transfer to Kgalagadi.

Originally, Caryl and I were going to visit a colleague volunteering in Malawi, however we ran out of time for this due to the dates available for the Maun flight and the Mashatu transfers. As things turned out, our friend arrived home just days after us. The volunteer agency had terminated her contract due to the ongoing violence in Malawi.

Shindzela and Umkumbe were included as a result of Jochen’s review of affordable lodges along the western border of Kruger and it was the only chance that Caryl would have to see rhino. Mashatu Tent Camp was included due to Caryl being a fan of Pete’s Pond for many years and my enthusiastic report of my 4 day stay in 2008. I happily booked Masson Safaris again as we had good sightings in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve with Ewan in 2008. Ewan is an experienced guide who knows where and how to find animals, and he’s good company to boot! Kgalagadi was included for its red sand desert environment and the consistently good trip reports on the Travellers Tales forum on the Sanparks website. Savute, Khwai and Moremi were included as a result of the excellent game viewing experience I enjoyed in 2004, when we saw everything on my (first safari) wishlist except cheetah. This first safari introduced me to mobile camping - a type of safari I enjoy because it offers some home comforts together with a ‘real’ safari experience in private campsites under canvas.

Although this was my fourth African safari I am tempted to return again and again, the reasons for which I posted on another forum earlier in the year.

Safari restores my soul, spending time in scenic and stimulating environments with the potential to surprise and delight every minute of every day. Being free of work routines and home and house related niggles in a wild environment with an experienced guide to deliver the best safari experience is a tonic like no other.

I will always enjoy the wildlife wherever I am in the world and especially in Africa. The spectacular landscapes and coasts of South Africa and Namibia, together with the open space of the Central Kalahari and the Kgalagadi and the wetlands of the Okavango and St Lucia make for a heady mix when remembered with the lions, oryx, leopard, hippo, honey badgers and other animals which contribute to these unique environments.

The style of travel is intoxicating and I have a fondness for mobile safaris utilising private campsites where human presence is minimal and it is possible to develop a true sense of sharing the land, the sky and the stars with others whose home it is. I enjoy the thrill of discovery that safari brings, as a guide once said - "we will go and see what nature has sent". Appreciating the small creatures as well as large predators and herbivores brings its own rewards.
Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.

Groucho Marx

#14 twaffle

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 09:15 AM

Beautiful report Treepol, thank you. I'll go and check out the rest of your photos.

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#15 Paolo

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Posted 02 October 2011 - 09:35 AM

Great report and photos.....I particularly enjoyed that unique mix or roan and gemsbok.

#16 madaboutcheetah

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Posted 05 October 2011 - 04:21 AM

Thanks for your lovely report, Pol. Brilliant reading it!!!

How did in your opinion KTP compare to the CKGR? in terms of landscapes and wilderness? Gameviewing, i'm sure is all luck of the draw in any case particularly in a harsh environment like that. Given the fact that these places are better during and after the rains, looks like you had some great luck with the viewing.

Your mention of bumping into Alwyn at third bridge - i just had a chat with him the other day and he mentioned that cheetah have been regularly seen in that area in recent times. Did Ewan or anyone in Savute mention anything of the 5 male coalition of Lions? They are real beasts ......

Thanks
Hari

Edited by madaboutcheetah, 05 October 2011 - 04:21 AM.

http://500px.com/madaboutcheetah

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#17 Sangeeta

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Posted 06 October 2011 - 04:23 PM

Yup, like everyone has said, a lovely TR indeed, Treepol. I thought your variety of locations and pace were excellent too. Nothing sounds too rushed and frenetic. Lovely descriptions. I share your inclination for mobiles and after reading so much about Masson trips from so many STers, they're high on my list whenever I manage a Bots trip. Thanks for sharing.

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You only live once...Go To Africa

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#18 Treepol

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 06:20 AM

Hari, that is a very good question.

I visited both CKGR and KTP in July and I would think we saw more varied wildlife in KTP. In terms of landscape and wilderness, CKGR is great for solitude and open space, there were definitely more people and vehicles in KTP and being a National Park the daily permits outline where you are allowed to drive. So definitely less of a wilderness atmosphere in KTP. KTP is a more colourful environment with those dominant red sand dunes whilst I remember CKGR with gray sand and dry yellowing dry grass.

I don't have a preference for one above the other and would definitely be happy to visit both again.

Sadly, we saw no lion whatsoever in Savute although I would have very much liked to have seen the 5 male coalition :D and no one mentioned them that I recall.


Regards,



Pol
Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.

Groucho Marx

#19 madaboutcheetah

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 07:15 AM

Thanks for the info
http://500px.com/madaboutcheetah

Botswana in my blood .......

#20 johan db

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Posted 09 October 2011 - 04:26 PM

Looks like Moremi/Savuti are quiet these days. No surprise if you ask me.

Thanks for your wonderful trip report once more.





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