Trip report: Kgalagadi Transfron. Park, November 2012 (Part 1)

Well, at last it happened. Staying one week at Urikaruus camp and what a privilege.

We started planning this trip exactly 1 year ago when we left Kgalagadi in December 2011 – we made the booking at Twee Rivieren gate/reception as we were about heading back home after spending another weekend in the Kgalagadi. As we arrived home, we phoned our friends and told them about our plans and they decided to join. Unfortunately Johan (one of our friends) was not able to make it but Wenzel and Amelia joined us (I hope they’ve enjoyed it as much as we did even though sightings were not that good – we had to work hard for our photos this time around). Once again, I am not going to do this trip report day by day but rather let the photos tell the stories.

I can honestly call this trip the Trip of the African Wild Cat. In the previous two years that we visited the park, we saw about two or three of them. On this trip we saw so many wild cats we stopped counting them. Some were great sightings with no obstructions, others were hiding behind the branches. The one below was between 14th bore hole and Dalkeith early one morning. The sun was still behind the dunes – the reason for the lack of sun light:

African wild cat waking up 1

 African wild cat walking up 1

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens with 1.4 convertor = 850mm, ISO320, f5.6, 1/40, exposure = 0, WB = auto, Aperture mode)

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And then there was the Cape fox den next to the first chalet as you entered the camp. Unfortunately it seems like there was only one small one left and its parents kept moving between the chalets. There was also a den a few km south of Kamqua but we only saw one adult lying next to the holes. We went back a few mornings but not kids. The photo below was the adult lying in the early morning light as the sun rose above the dunes:

Cape fox sleeping 1

 Cape fox sleeping

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4, ISO200, f5.6, 1/400, exposure = -0.3, WB = auto, Aperture mode)

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Some of our friends visited the Kgalagadi the week before and they warned us about the heat. But what a surprise. When we drove through Upington around 11H00 on Saturday, it was only 12 degrees C. Also, when we started our early morning drive (05H30) on Monday morning, it was 4 degrees C. In November in the Kgalagadi!!! However, on Thursday afternoon we recorded a maximum for the week of 48 degrees C. And everybody was drinking water – like this jackal:

 Jackal drinking water 1

Jackal drinking water 1 

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens with 1.4 convertor = 850mm, ISO800, f5.6, 1/5000, exposure = -0.3, WB = auto, Aperture mode)

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And for the first time since our first visit to the park, we got a great shot of the lion drinking water (at the 13th bore hole). And we had him all for ourselves – that is what is so great about the Kgalagadi. Not 20 cars around a sighting like this and we were only 10 meters away from the lion.

 Lion drinking water 1

Lion drinking water 1

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO400, f5.6, 1/160, exposure = -0.67, WB = auto, Aperture mode)

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And there was the usual doves. However, the lanner falcons were not that busy. So, they did not provide the needed action for those great shots.

Doves landing sitting taking off

Doves sitting, landing, taking off

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO800, f5, 1/5000, exposure = -1.0, WB = sun, Aperture mode)

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Even the Giant eagle owl came down to sit on the ground trying to cool down. I took this photo with the last bit of light coming through the tree behind it. Really tricky to get a proper photo in these conditions (trying not to clip the highlights but still get enough detail in the darker parts of the photo).

Giant eagle owl backlighting

Giant eagle owl backlighting

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO500, f4, 1/640, exposure = -2.3, WB = sun, Aperture mode)

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But luckily there was some relief from the heat. During the last few days we experienced some of the worst sandstorms. At some stage I had to stop my vehicle because I couldn’t see 1 meter in front of me. With the wind, we had some great clouds building up and some rain. Here is that well-known museum before the sand storm:

Auchertonie house and clouds

Auchterlonie house and clouds 

(Nikon D3S, 600mmf4 fixed lens, ISO400, f5.6, 1/160, exposure = -0.67, WB = auto, Aperture mode)

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Message to take home:

Never get upset or impatient with Mother Nature. Look carefully what she has to offer and make the best with the limited sightings. Accept that some times there isn’t an opportunity for a photo. And if there is really nothing to shoot,  just relax, forget about the camera and enjoy the moment (being in the park).

Untill Part 2 of this trip report – keep on shooting or just enjoy nature itself/the moment!!!

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  1. #1 by bessie on January 5, 2013 - 9:11 pm

    willem, the animal shots are great and I have never seen auchterlonie so beautiful.

  2. #2 by whk139 on January 6, 2013 - 6:32 am

    Hi Bessie, thanks and we did enjoy our trip despite the “lack” of great sightings

  3. #3 by Isak on January 7, 2013 - 6:32 pm

    I’m still stunned by all the talent from Bloem! Great photos and text Willem!

  4. #4 by puppy1952 on January 11, 2013 - 8:08 pm

    Lovely trip report – can’t believe the changes in temperature! Your AWC is superb. Imagine losing count of how many you saw – only saw one last time I was there.

  5. #5 by whk139 on January 12, 2013 - 5:08 am

    Hi Puppy, the temperature – that’s the Kgalagadi at its best. Expect the unexpected. The AWC – it was also the first time in two years that we saw so many of them. We also saw only two or three of them in our previous (about) nine visits (from 2010 to 2012). Thanks for the comment.

  6. #6 by whk139 on March 15, 2013 - 4:33 am

    Hi Isak, thanks for reading my blog. See you hopefully in the near furture. I always enjoy your style of photography.

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