2015 Kgalagadi – Day 4

The first unforgettable Kgalagadi trip!

Sunday – 2015/09/27

Today was one of those days one will never forget… But, before I get to that…

This morning we had a peaceful cup of coffee, while watching the sunrise over the camp… Then we tackled breaking up the camp site with enthusiasm, eager to find out what today would entail.

Duiker next to the road

With everything packed away and the bakkie loaded, we freshened up with a shower and headed out towards Mata-Mata… It’s about 120 km away and we had to put up camp again that side, but we also didn’t want to rush to get there and miss anything along the way. So the camera was ready on my lap and we scanned the bush along the road for any form of animals or scenery to capture through the lens.

After the first few dunes we saw a few duiker and a black-backed jackal… and a few meters from Houmoed waterhole, a lioness strolled across the road and lay down under the tree… She was obviously ready for a nap, after having a proper drink at the waterhole.

Lazy lioness at Houmoed

A bit further we found a little tortoise in the road, a tawny eagle in the tree tops and a few other birds that kept the camera clicking…

And then the road made a bend with three vehicles parked on the other side… They were watching something in the dry riverbed. At first it looked like it was only a youngish oryx standing close to a small tree, but then we realized there was a snake in the grass… Figuratively speaking.

Lion laying low in the grass

Christoff decided to move the bakkie for us to get a better view point and we were barely parked and the engine switched off, when the oryx turned around… and the lioness took her chance.

Charging lion
Yellow eyes fixed on the oryx – perfectly caught on camera by Christoff

Her charge was soundless and she crossed the distance in split seconds… And before the oryx realized what was happening, the lioness was behind it.

The oryx realized the danger too late

While the oryx was still moaning, the lioness’s hunting partner showed up and both started licking and biting into it until it finally went quiet… Every time I recall this moment, my heart breaks for the way in which the young oryx life ended, but it was magnificent to see the lioness in action… and we were able to catch it on camera… and all of this happened before half past nine in the morning…

Ostrich against the blue sky
Lanner falcon

Different to the lions, we have not had breakfast yet and after the excitement we just witnessed close to the Kamfersboom waterhole, we decided to head to the Kamqua picnic site.

We were further treated to a lanner falcon picking at his catch on a tree trunk close to the road, as well as an impressive shot of an ostrich on the edge of the dry riverbed…

African wild cat
Secretary birds at Rooibrak

An African wild cat was lazying in a tree and a pair of secretary birds were strutting around at the Rooibrak waterhole.

At the Kamqua picnic site we prepared a tasty breakfast and exchanged stories with the people from the other vehicles that also witnessed the charging lioness… The experience was also shared with people that did not witness it.

Kamqua picnic site

One of the vehicles that were also next to the road told us they were parked there for 40 minutes, where they watched how the other lioness, that joined the charging one a few minutes after the catch, walked on the hill along the riverbed, roaring to draw attention to her and away from the lioness hiding in the grass. They were definitely working together to make sure they got something to eat.

Recovering spotted hyena

On the remainder of the road we saw a falcon in a tree, as well as a sleeping spotted hyena under a tree. A passing vehicle made us aware of the hyena next to the road, explaining that it was involved in a skirmish with two other spotted hyenas a day or two ago.

Shade-seeking giraffes

We also saw our first Kori bustard and a couple of giraffes. We recently saw some giraffes in the bushveld, but these were visibly bigger… and in the Kalahari heat even the giraffes take a lie-down in the shade of a tree.

Spotted eagle owl en route to Mata-Mata

People visiting the Kgalagadi are not all in search of bigger game. There are a number of avid bird watchers and they had us scratching our heads trying to see what they are watching through their binoculars… But thanks to them, we managed to get a glimpse of a beautiful spotted eagle owl, watching all his spectators with big eyes.

Close to the Fourteenth Borehole’s waterhole we saw two cheetahs in the distance. They were busy munching on whatever they caught earlier in the day. We were later informed they caught a young spring buck, but we were too far to get a proper picture of them.

Newborn springbok

Another highlight of the day was the almost newborn spring buck we came across. They were right next to the road and the newborn was in the process of trying to take his first steps on his wobbly legs.

Mata-Mata gate

And then we entered through the Mata-Mata gate.

We had to do some more paperwork before we could find a spot to set up camp. We found a bit of shade and immediately started pitching the tent. With the camp site sorted out, we went to cool down in the camp’s swimming pool. It was a welcome relieve from the day’s heat.

Camp site 6 at Mata-Mata
Dinner time

While Grandpa Ampie started the evening’s potjie, Fanie from Vryburg (officially Bray’s district) started making conversation and the men could proudly share the day’s experience and show him the pictures of the charging lioness.

Every time we looked at the pictures I was thankful that it was Christoff behind the camera lens and not me… I definitely would have lost focus during the charge.

Mata-Mata has a spot light that shines on the waterhole in the riverbed. It also has a hide in the fence where you can peacefully sit and watch the happenings at the waterhole. After we devoured the potjie and pot-desert, we went to sit in the hide for a bit.

At first there was only one oryx that shyly ventured closer, but he was soon followed by a few more. We watched their interaction with fascination. They were constantly pushing away a specific oryx when he tried to get close to the water. But other than that, it was a quiet drinking session.

At some point a black-backed jackal came trotting past and followed the braai odors along the fence. But sadly for him, there was no place to crawl through the fence and he had head back into the darkness without scavenging anything.

We marveled in the blue moon rising over the Kgalagadi, but when the breeze started getting colder, we headed back to camp to climb into the warmer sleeping bags. We had a good night’s rest until around four when the lions started roaring in the area. They continued their conversation until the first rays of sunlight started lighting up the sky.

For more adventures, have a look at the other daily posts from the introduction. Or click here to go to the next day.

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