Trip report: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, April 2017 (Easter weekend)

Well, well, well a trip report at last after a long period of silence. My wife decided that we needed a break after a few stressful weeks at work. So, we decided to have a quick trip to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) over the Easter weekend (no additional leave days to be used!!!). Because of the heavy traffic on our roads usually experienced over the Eater weekend, the KTP was our only option. Since 2010 we’ve only been to the KTP once over the Easter weekend and it was so busy. And once again, the park was so busy that it was impossible to get accommodation anywhere on such short notice. Towards the end of 2016 we stayed at Polentswa Lodge and we were very impressed. So, this time around we decided to stay at Rooiputs Lodge (Ta Shebube) and what a pleasant stay. It was really relaxing.

In April the KTP gates close at 18H30 in the afternoons and open at 07H00 in the mornings. So, we arrived on the Thursday in the park just before gate closing time and we left the park on Monday after a quick drive to Gunong waterhole and back. KTP had a heavy thunderstorm on the Wednesday just before we arrived, so there were water puddles all over the place. Once you see the water puddles, you know this will be a slow visit when it comes to sightings. But we still enjoyed our stay – see my Message to take home below. Even though the temperatures dropped to about 7 degree C in the mornings. We were so glad that we were in our own vehicle and not in the open game drive vehicle in the mornings.

This was the second time that I’ve taken my Nikon D500 to the Kgalagadi. The camera is a great asset with its crop factor sensor – especially on the 600mm lens. It gives you a final reach of about 900mm. And with a 1.4 convertor, you get a reach of 1275mm and the quality of the image is till very acceptable. Just what you need in the Kgalagadi. And I did use it frequently on this trip as you’ll see from my images.

Just a few images from our trip below – just to show you what to expect if you do go to the park for a long weekend. Every day we only drove between Twee Rivieren en Gunong waterhole and we did not even drive over to the Auob river on the western side of the park.

Enjoy the trip with us

 

1.

Secretary bird

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens = 900mm, 1/2000 sec, f5.6, Exposure = -0.33, ISO 640, 50m from bird

One of the regular birds to be found in the Kgalagadi and one of my first images taken during our trip

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2.

Swallowed tailed bee-eater

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens = 900mm, 1/5000 sec, f8, Exposure = -0.67, ISO 1250, 9m from bird

Another of the regular birds to be found in the Kgalagadi. One needs to increase the f-stop if you are close to an object to try and get everything in focus especially the tail. ______________________________________

3.

Ostrich

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens = 900mm, 1/3200 sec, f4, Exposure = -1.33, ISO 125, 63m from bird

Many otrishes to be found between Twee Rivierien en Kji Kji water hole. This image was taken at Leeudril waterhole with the setting sun from behind the bird

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4.

Meerkat child love

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens + 1.4 convertor = 1275mm, 1/500 sec, f9, Exposure = -1.33, ISO 250, 21m from meerkat

At the entrance of Rooiputs, a clan of meetkats had a temporay den. I found them one afternoon enjoying the last bit of sunrise before they disappearing into the burrows. The next two dayss they did not return to this speciifc den.

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5.

Meerkat help me

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens = 900mm, 1/3200 sec, f4, Exposure = -0.67, ISO 125, 21m from meerkat

The next morning we did a quick drive to Kji Kji waterhole but we returned to wait for the meerkats to appear because we know they were there. And they apperared just after sunrise, warmed up a bit and then started to their foraging exercises for the day. However, they did not come back to this specific den for the next few days.

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6.

Porcupine side ways

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens + 1.4 convertor = 1275mm, 1/1000 sec, f8, Exposure = -0.67, ISO 320, 84m from porcupine

Another first for us after visiting the park for almost 7 years – a porcupine in daylight. Between Kji Kji and Melkvlei water holes. At first he was on the other side of the river bed and that was the reason why I’ve put the 1.4 convertor on my camera and lens. The old saying is so true: “Being at the right place at the right time”.

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7.

Porcupine close up

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens + 1.4 convertor = 1275mm, 1/1000 sec, f8, Exposure = -0.67, ISO 320, 84m from porcupine

All of a sudden the porcupine decided to cross over to our side. Luckily we were the only vehicle in the sighting and I was bale to manoeuvre our vehicle accordingly. It looks like the porcupine was in some sort of a fight because of the blood on its nose. It all happened so quickly – it was not possible for me to even remove my convertor from my camera and lens. The beauty of having a second body (D4 and 200-400mm lens on the passenger seat next to me). It took the porcupine about 4 minutes from our first sighting to cross the dune and disappear.

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8.

Young ground squirrels

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens = 900mm, 1/800 sec, f7.1, Exposure = 0, ISO 320, 12m from squirrels

You will definitely see a lot of ground squirrels in the park but not very often will you see young one warming up early in the morning

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9.

Black backed Jackal

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens = 900mm, 1/1600 sec, f6.3, Exposure = -0.33, ISO 320, 10m from jackal

Also the ever-present BB jackals and on this trip we saw a lot of them. Always nice to stop if they are close to the road – like this one and practise some portrait photograpghy

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10.

Lion

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens = 900mm, 1/5000 sec, f8, Exposure = -0.67, ISO 800, 50m from lion

Over the long weekend we saw about 7 different lions – always a pleasure and an enjoyment to see what they are up to. This year the grass was a bit high, so photographgy was not easy and one had to wait for the opportnities.

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11.

Gemsbok

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens = 900mm, 1/8000 sec, f11, Exposure = -1.0, ISO 640, 106m from gemsbok

Early in the morning the sun gives an opportunity to take some backlight photos – you just need to look for subjects on the edge of the dunes

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12.

Springbok

Nikon D500 & 600mm lens = 900mm, 1/6400 sec, f11, Exposure = -1.0, ISO 640, 105m from springbok

And a springbok provided us with another opportunity for some backlight photography

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Message to take home

 

Well, looking at the reason why we decided on short notice to take on the long road (800km) to the Kgalagadi for only a stay of 4 nights, I’ve realized that this message I’ve read is so true:

“Nature photography is extremely therapeutic if you can reap enjoyment from it.”

Because of a few stressful weeks before our trip, we decided to put our camera equipment in our vehicle and took on the long road to our favourite park. Even if it was just for a few days. And believe me, it was worth it – within a day or two we were so relaxed and focused on nature and photography that we once again realised that being alone with a camera in the natural world is definitely a great way to wind down and forget about the work. But just remember:

“Take photos not to see the result, but to enjoy the process”

 Until my next trip report – keep on shooting

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