2015 Kgalagadi – Day 5

The first unforgettable Kgalagadi trip!

Monday – 2015/09/28

We got up early and took rusks and our mugs, filled to the brim with hot coffee, to the hide and watched as the African sun climbed over the Kalahari dunes… And once again it was beautiful to behold.

Sunrise at Mata-Mata

We brushed our teeth and headed out of camp towards Kamqua again. Today we did not pack the skottelbraai and decided to make a quick sandwich instead to free up more time to drive around.

At the Sitsas waterhole we saw an oryx with a deformed horn. But even with the hanging horn it was obvious that mister jackal was too scared to get his Hyde too close to that horn.

Kori bustard on top of the dune
Tawny eagle

Further down we saw another Kori bustard. This time the bird was positioned in such a way that one could pick up on it’s size better, even if it was a bit far from the road. According to Oupa Ampie the Kori bustard is the biggest flying bird.

We were also privileged to get close enough to a tawny eagle to get a better photo with the 300 mm lens.

As we passed through the Fourteenth and Thirteenth Boreholes’ waterholes we saw the one group of springbok young ones after the other… Some were still lying in the grass while others already discovered their legs. It was priceless watching them running around, making broad circles around the mommies keeping an eye on all of them.

Some of the young ones

And there, just passed the Thirteenth Borehole’s waterhole, we saw a springbok lying in the grass, with the head and feet of a baby buck protruding from her…

Birth of a springbok

Just the day before we saw how a young buck lost his life against the big hunters of the Kgalagadi and this morning we are witnessing how a new life is entering the world. It did not have the same adrenaline rush as the day before, but this experience left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling in my heart… Until you suddenly start feeling anxious on behalf of the newborn buck, as it’s mother disappears and leave it alone between the spots of grass. I was hoping it was a way to get the young one to stand up and follow her, but I didn’t want to wait to find out whether it was due to some danger lurking somewhere close, so I asked the men if we could move on.

Strolling giraffe

Before we got to Kamqua, we saw a lonesome giraffe slowly walking along towards somewhere.

At Kamqua we settled under the same tree as the day before and started preparing our sandwiches. The idea was to go passed Vaalpan, Morevet and Eland waterholes to Dikbaardskolk’s picnic spot before our bladders or tummies start moaning… But alas, it did not turn out that way.

At Vaalpan, the first waterhole, Christoff saw a lion’s profile under a tree in the shade, with a few oryx patrolling the area.

Patient oryx at the Vaalpan waterhole

After a while the lions starting shifting around in the shade and we realized there were three of them. One lioness and to blond-maned lions.

As the oryx milled around away from the waterhole, the lions watched them but didn’t make any attempt to chase one of them down… And while the lions and oryx were measuring each other’s movements, the jackals trot closer and cautiously sip water, realizing the lions were close by, but that they were more interested in the lovely oryx.

There were three black-headed herons around the waterhole as well, but didn’t seem to be worried about the lions’ presence or the saga happening between the lion and oryx.

At this point the oryx started to measure up against each other to determine which one will take action against the lions, in order to allow the herd to get to the water.

Two of the bigger oryx bulls started sparring and when the winner walked away, he started mocking the lions.

At first he walked behind them, but all he got was a slight lift of the heads… Then he walked passed the trees, while snorting at them as he got closer to them with the waterhole positioned between them.

But the only movement he got out of the lions was a sporadic shift to move back into the shade… The lioness stood up and walked to the other side of the water tank at some point, to see what the oryx were up to. She also went to take a sip or two, but other than that, they were just lying around in the shade… And this is how we left them four hours later, when our bodies cried for relief.

Lazy lions at Vaalpan

Back at Kamqua we did the necessary, took a few bites and admitted our bodies had enough of the heat for one day and we decided to not head back to Vaalpan to see if the situation developed towards something or not. We went back to Mata-Mata instead and the only life we saw along the road was the herds of young spring bucks in the shade close to the waterholes.

Male lion on the dune at Mata-Mata

We were scarcely back at camp, when we were lured to the fence by small groups of people watching the dune through long camera lenses… Our 300 mm lens were not nearly big enough, but we at least saw what they were looking at.

Our experience of the previous day were shared with a few bystanders and we had to rush to put the full SD card back into the camera, so that Christoff could do the complete show and tell… And that perfect shot of the charging lioness resulted in quite a few “Lucky Christoff” comments.

We returned to our camp site and started the fire for our braai. After dinner we went to brush our teeth and were getting ready for bed when we heard lions were spotted outside the camp… We skipped the stretchers for now and headed to the hide to watch the waterhole. Shortly after we sat down, the hide was filled with people, with a few more lining the inside of the fence.

The next moment the lioness walked out of the bushes into the riverbed, with two male lions. When the one lion came too close to the lioness, the other started growling… and before they reached the waterhole, the big boy stalked out of the bushes. He slowly walked to the waterhole and started drinking water. As he was drinking, the growled-at-lion came closer and started sniffing the big male, which resulted in him being snapped at again.

The young male’s ego was obviously bruised, so he decided to direct his attention somewhere else… and what else were there apart from the people on the other side of the fence? And in the hide of course…

A portion of the experience were caught on video by someone in the hide and were posted to Youtube. You can take a peak by clicking here.

The next couple of minutes felt like a lifetime, while we all sat as quiet as mouses in the hide… The young male slowly stalked towards the fence and then changed course and walked passed the hide, all the while fixing his eyes on the dark hole in the wall, from where lots of scared eyes were following his every move. Some of the children climbed in under the benches, too scared that the lion might take a chance and jump through the opening in the hide.

As he came closer, whispered advice reached our ears to shine a flash light in his eyes when he comes too close and we feel threatened… At that stage I was already feeling threatened and I was wondering what we would really do if the lion started climbing into the hide. I was also contemplating what the people would think if I climbed onto Christoff’s lap, as I really felt like doing that.

We were glued to our spots as we watched the lion patrolling up the fence. He was almost disappearing into the shadows when the lioness and other young male lion started off towards him… Then they disappeared out of sight into the trees, where the river chalets started. Suddenly a few spot lights starting shining from the chalets and people were making noise, resulting in the three lions running back into the riverbed and into sight again.

The maned lion slowly followed them, but there were obviously something wrong with his one paw. He lied down in the riverbed a short distance from them and watched what they were doing, as they were heading back towards the chalets again. But soon they were returning to the riverbed again and walked back to the waterhole, where they took a few sips and then walked off into the bushes on the other side of the riverbed. The maned lion also got up and disappeared into the bush further down the riverbed, where he was lying.

The moment was so charged that we ended up sitting in the hide for quite some time, before finally dragging ourselves off to bed… and in those few steps you are suddenly aware of how flimsy the fence looks and where you would try to hide, if lions were to enter the camp…

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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