Trip report: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, April 2013 (Part 2)

Well, I am back at home and during my last night in the Kgalagadi I’ve prepared a few more images from my week-long trip in the Kgalagadi. Sad to say, but that lion photo at Kji Kji was the last lion action I saw during my week-long stay in the park. Well, not really – I saw two lionesses between Bedink and Langklaas waterholes but they were doing what lions do best – SLEEPING. I stayed with them for a few minutes and then continue with my ride up north. On my way back, almost 1 hour later, still no changes- SLEEPING as usual.

And that was the rest of my week in a nut shell. Once again, not really – I had some amazing sights but they were only a few of them. The rest of the time was just relaxing and enjoying the ride in the park. Lets look at some of my images from the worthwhile sightings.

The first image is an example of why a serious wildlife photographer should not have non-photographers in his/her vehicle. They won’t understand why one should sit around a sighting for 2 hours waiting for that one photo opportunity.

On my way to Mata Mata (taking the Nossob River up to Kji Kji and then with the Lower dune road to the Auob River) just past Gemsbokplein water hole, I saw two Martial Eagles sitting in a dead tree. It was around 9H45. They were sitting in the open, facing me and the wind was blowing the right direction. So I decided – today is the day I’ll wait for them to take off. Come hell of high water – I do have the time. And they showed me what Africa time really means. Both eagles were very relaxed cleaning and “oiling” their feathers. Around 10H40, one decided to take off but in the wrong direction and landing a few 100meters back against the dunes. So, now I am waiting for the second eagle to take off. For the non-photographers – one cannot take you eye off the eagle (via the view finder) for a minute, otherwise you will not have enough time to catch the bird taking off.  Especially if you are alone in your car. If you do have a fellow photographer with you – it is another story. After about 15 minutes the first eagle return unexpectedly with a some nesting material – landed (luckily for me) next to the other eagle again. Missed the landing as I was concentrating on the second eagle. Luckily the first eagle with the nesting material took off again to the other side of the river and I realised they are building a nest on top of a large acacia tree. Luckily I got some really nice photos of this eagle taking off with the nesting material. I waited until 12H30 for the other eagle to also engage in the nesting exercise but to no avail. Well, getting such images as the one below was worth the wait.

Martial eagle nesting material 1

Martial eagle nesting material 1

Nikon D800, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO800, 1/3200, f11 exposure comp = -0.7, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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Then it was Mata Mata. The first morning driving out of Mata Mata just after you cross the Auob River for the first time, the herd of giraffes was standing on the dune and I just love the this typical African scene. Got a few great shots – here is one of them:

Giraffe sunrise 1

Giraffe sunrise 1

Nikon D800, Nikon 200mm-400mm lens @ 200mm, ISO200, 1/640, f8, exposure comp = -0.7, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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The rest of the time/sightings at Mata Mata was slow and nothing really was going on. So I’ve tried to keep my hand in with some BIF shots. Luckily this juvenile Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk decided to take off directly in my direction. As well as the fork tailed drongo – not the easiest bird (especially a BIF shot) to photograph because of its movements and colour.

Juvenile goshawk taking off 1

Juvenile goshawk taking off 1

Nikon D800, Nikon 600mm lens with 1.4 convertor = 850mm, ISO800, 1/3200, f11, exposure comp = -0.7, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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Fork tailed drongo taking off 1 1024 500k 72 sRGB W

Fork tailed drongo taking off

Nikon D3S, Nikon 600mm lens, ISO1250, 1/2500, f8, exposure comp = 0, Aperture priority, WB = sun. Not an award winning shot but worth the exercise – always a challenge to catch a drongo in flight.

And please note – I do not start shooting before the take off hoping I’ll catch the bird in flight. I do wait until I see the first signs of a take off before I pull the trigger/shoot the first frame.

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At one stage – one morning – I drove up the 14th bore hole before I lifted my camera for the first time – two BB jackals chased a African wild cat into a dead tree next to the road. About 3-5 meters from my car window. I was so hoping he/she would look up at me but this one did not want to look at any cameras – he/she was so upset with the jackals not bothered looking for any more attention:

African wild cat in tree 1

African wild cat in tree 1

Nikon D800, Nikon 200mm-400mm lens @ 400mm, ISO1600, 1/4000, f8, exposure comp = -0.7, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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I’ve spend some time at the 13th borehole – one of my favourite waterholes in the park – but there were too much water around. The birds drank water far away from the actual waterhole making photography difficult but I managed to get this interesting photo. It was not compiled in Photoshop – I caught the three doves in action like that.

Three Cape turtle doves 1024 500k 72d sRGB W

Three Cape Turtle doves

Nikon D3S, Nikon 600mm lens with 1.4 convertor = 850mm, ISO800, 1/2500, f8, exposure comp = 0, Aperture priority, WB = sun.

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Then it was off to Nossob for two days.

And then the highlight of my trip – I came across this honey badger between Cubitje Quap and Kwang waterhole. He (and it was definitely a he) was about 10-15 meters away from the road foraging in and around bushes and trees. We were three vehicles at the initial sighting but after a few minutes it looks like he was moving into the river bed. The two other vehicles left but I decided to stay. Such a unique sighting for me – I would rather stay and watch with no photos after all. However, after another few minutes he moved towards the road again and this time around he started digging for geckos. I’ve spend about 1 hour all alone with him while he was digging one hole after another with great success. I was so glad to be alone with him because I came to realise how difficult it is to photograph a honey badger. He moves should quickly and infrequently (one can see he is moving towards the fresh “smell” of geckos – 10 meters forward and the next moment 10meters back). And then there was the every-present chanting goshawks all around him looking for the left-overs. The sun/light was also not from the right direction. Here are three photos of him:

  Honey bagger walking 1

Honey badger walking

Nikon D3S, Nikon 600mm lens with 1.4 convertor = 850mm, ISO1250, 1/800, f6.3 exposure comp = 0, Aperture priority, WB = sun. As you can see, he was still far way at this stage – focal length 850mm.

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Honey bagger digging 1

Honey badger digging

Nikon D3S, Nikon 200mm-400mm @ 380mm, ISO800, 1/1000, f8 exposure comp = 0, Aperture priority, WB = sun. Now he was so close I had to change to my 200mm-400mm lens. At oen stage even my 200mm-400mm lens was too much glass. he was barely 3 meters away fro my vehicle.

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Honey bagger digging mouth 1

Honey badger digging mouth

Nikon D3S, Nikon 200mm-400mm @ 400mm, ISO800, 1/1250, f8 exposure comp = 0, Aperture priority, WB = sun. Now he was so close I had to change to my 200mm-400mm lens. At one stage even my 200mm-400mm lens was too much glass. He was barely 3 meters away from my vehicle.

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On Friday – on my way from Nossob back to Two River – I came across another honey badger just before the split in the road to Marie se gat digging for geckos. I’ll post a separate post with a few interesting photos of him and the BB jackal.

O, I almost forgot – my promise to the de Wets. The road conditions – the road around Mata Mata was very bad but there was lots of traffic on the roads. The staff of Nossob was busy grading the road and it was very a very smooth ride towards and around Nossob. However, two days later on my way back to Twee Rivieren, there was already areas that were badly corrugated – only graded two days ago. So, the condition of the roads all depends on then it was corrugated, the amount of traffic, the speed of the vehicles, tyre pressure and the rain. I’ve been to the park now more than 10 times since my first visit in 2012 and it is still the same – depends on the conditions mentioned before. Luckily I only had one slow puncture – because I park underneath a camel (thorn) tree. So, good luck with your decision. For me, it is easy because it is my opinion that the Kgalagadi is one of the best places for a photographer. I’ll always go back no matter what the condition of the roads are.

Mata Mata road

Enjoy the ride

On my way to the Two Rivieren on Friday I saw a bright red Audi Q7 park at the Samevloei waterhole – I am sure the owner did not want to drive further that Samevloei with such a nice car. On the other side, I saw a Chev Spark and Fait Uno on the road as well as a Merc 280 C Class. Just to show you what can be done in Kgalagadi.

Message to take home:

When you are in park – do not leave a sighting in a park (or for that matter anywhere) just because you think the action/activities are over. Stay around for a few more minutes to what is happening and make sure the action is over before you drive on looking for the next piece of action.

Until my next trip report (and I am now a few trips behind), keep on shooting!!!

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  1. #1 by puppy1952 on April 28, 2013 - 3:27 pm

    Loved reading your story, Willem. Absolutely stunning photographs. We wonder if the AWC lives in that area as we have seen one there before too. The digging Honey Badger is my favourite.

  2. #2 by de Wets Wild on May 2, 2013 - 2:26 am

    Thank you Willem!

    Your trip reports make excellent reading, your photographs are stunning and we’re longing for the Kalahari more than ever now!

  3. #3 by whk139 on May 28, 2013 - 6:05 am

    Thanks Puppy and De Wets Wild, Kgalagadi is one of my favourite photography sites – for various reasons. I will always go back – just give me half an opportunity and I’ll be there.

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