Category Archives: Kgalagadi Photo Safari

A Lioness and Cub Relay …

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Dawie’s Notes from the Kgalagadi Photo Tour:

The amazing days here just continue …

Our final full day started early again – at the crack of dawn. While enjoying our early coffee even before we set out we heard lions calling, and decided to head in their direction. On the way we to them we encountered a different, very big single male lion. He moved around restlessly, then settled down, and within a few moments he started to call. He was right next to us and the deep roars that emanated seemed to envelop the area and filled one with awe – one instinctively almost wants to flee! It really is an experience to witness that sound from a meter or two away.

We headed over to where we had reports of lion cubs, and when we reached the area we found only a lioness at first. We could not see cubs – they are tiny, only about 6 weeks old and mom had them well stashed from view. We waited and eventually they started to appear. Mom was very reluctant for them to leave the security that comes with being hidden away, and she picked them up one by one to return each one to the shelter of the bush.

The cubs, however, wanted to be out, playing, and checking to see what we were. And then a relay developed. As each cub emerged mom picked it up to stow it safely back deep within the bush, while another cub came wriggling out. Mom persisted, but so did the cubs, and of course we had wonderful opportunities for photos.

After that we returned to the waterhole with the lion. Our intention was to photograph birds, and as there were no raptors we concentrated on Sand Grouse again.

While we were sitting with the Sand Grouse we noticed another male lion close by. He approached us and we were able to get some close-ups and walk-bys. He was really big and impressive, and he soon joined up with the other male.

As we drove away we were a little surprised to find yet another male lion with a lioness. We realised it was the mating couple, but they were flat and clearly had no intention of moving for some time.

Next we found a tiny baby steenbok lying in the road. The poor little thing was terrified, and its mother was nowhere to be seen. When we returned to check in the afternoon there was no sign of the baby, and we assumed that it had been reunited with its mother.

As we left for our afternoon drive we found a tiny Eland Calf all alone. There were herds of eland arriving at the water hole to drink, and somehow mother and calf had been separated. The Calf stood there, eagerly and somewhat nervously waiting for mom to return.

We took a slow drive and after photographing Tawny Eagles we stopped for yet another Wild Cat. He was not keen to be photographed so we left him and took the road back to the lion cubs. On the way we has a brief encounter with a very busy Honey Badger.

We could see cubs playing within the cover of the bush, and after a while one lioness emerged from the bush. Then a lioness that is blind in one eye appeared on the scene. This lioness also has three cubs, around two months old. They were very inquisitive and wanted to see if we were interesting or doing anything special. When we appeared really boring they returned to mom and played with her instead … well, until they spotted a dove and had great fun trying to stalk it.

On our way back to the Lodge our final stop was for a Verreaux’ Eagle Owl.

In the morning we would like our final game drive to be spent with the lion cubs …

A Chilly Lion Honeymoon …

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Dawie’s Notes from the Kgalagadi Photo Tour:

Another superb day awaited us with an abrupt change in the weather. Windy, blustery, cool, almost cold by Kgalagadi standards with a noon temperature of only 26C suddenly replaced the heat of the previous days.

As we left the Lodge we first called on the lions with their eland kill. They were feeding on the remains and after a brief stop for some early morning photos we headed straight to the dunes.

Along the Dune Road we saw eland, gemsbok, springbok, and many birds, but because of the cooler windy weather there seemed to be less activity. Even when we came across a mating lion and lioness on a Dune, they were intent on basking in the sun to warm up and we totally understood why they chosen that particular spot to catch the sun rays.

The cold weather inhibited the duo’s romantic pursuits as they sought as much warmth as they could. When the two moved to the top of the Dune it was great as we could capture some fabulous silhouette shots.

We then moved further up the Auob River, stopping regularly to photograph Plains animals and birds, and a couple of ‘Dikkop’ – or Spotted Thick-knees that posed for us on their nest as they took turns with their brooding responsibilities.

We stopped at a picnic spot before our slow drive back to the Lodge.

We traveled in a different direction for our afternoon drive. Again we saw Oryx, Eland, Pale Chanting Goshawks, Tawny Eagles and when we arrived at a waterhole we photographed doves as they came in to land. We concentrated on Kori Bustards for a while, trying to perfect our flying shots of the birds.

On the way back to the Lodge we actually found a second African Wildcat. It sat in the fork of a tree, almost at eye level, and gave us plenty of time to compose our shots.

Tomorrow we plan to start at the lion kill again to check for scavengers …

Success! Bokke! A Lion Kill, A Three-way Altercation …

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Dawie’s Notes from the Kgalagadi Photo Tour:

What an exciting day! And not only because the Springboks won!

Last night we heard lions calling, with plenty of commotion created by sounds of hyenas and jackals. There was plenty of interaction and of course when we set out this morning we needed to check what all the fuss was about.

We found two Black-backed Jackals in the road soon after we left the Lodge. They looked really nervous. Something was afoot! On closer inspection of the surroundings we spotted two male lions. They had caught an eland not more than 100 meters from the Lodge. We spent an very profitable time with the lions, and as the sun rose the beautiful light created a perfect setting for our photos.

First one of the males left to flop down down and rest, and soon his companion joined him. And that was when some exciting drama unfolded. The jackals tried to sneak up to the kill to grab a meal, but the lions were up and at them in a flash. The interaction was quite intimidating.

When everything settled down again we left to follow the Dune Road to the Auob River. The road is very scenic, and we stopped not only for the beautiful scenery, but also the animals like oryx that looked wonderful against the red of the sand dunes. There is sparse green grass on the dunes and the animals fed on this.

Of course the birdlife fulfilled everyone’s wishes. We hoped to spot a Pygmy Falcon, as they are found near the Auob River. After a search we managed to find one. He sat quite far from the road, but when we heard more of the birds calling we followed the sound and found two fighting over a lizard that one had caught and the other wanted to steal. Then they were joined by a third Pygmy Falcon, and quite a tussle developed between the three. Each one wanted the prize and the others were not prepared to give up! Eventually they each had a piece of the lizard and there was peace all around. For many guests this was another bird ‘lifer’, and of course the drama and interaction left a memory that should last for years.

We continued our drive, and stopped momentarily for a large male lion, but as he just slept we left him to his slumbers. A Greater Kestrel caught our attention before we reached Twee Rivieren where we stopped to watch the rugby semifinal game with a very interactive, boisterous and very noisy crowd. It was great and of course when the Bokke won the game the celebrations called the event.

After a siesta at the Lodge we were ready for our afternoon game drive. We wanted to see whatever we could find and because we knew that the lions were right at the Lodge we stopped to check them first They were out for the count so we didn’t remain for long. The jackals were very busy as they dashed back and forth to grab as much as possible of the kill while the cats dozed.

We drove towards the area where we saw cheetahs before. We passed a Spotted Eagle Owl, Pale Chanting Goshawks, and numerous other birds.

Then excitement mounted when we saw the cheetahs on a Dune. They looked fabulous in the glow of the setting late afternoon sun.

Other than that we saw plenty of Plains animals, including many oryx and springbok. We spotted a Cape Fox next to the Lodge and were hoping to see signs of little pups, but maybe the extremely dry weather has delayed their appearance.

Just before sunset we checked on the lions again, and the wind picked up just then, so maybe we can hope for slightly cooler weather …

A Lion Kill, Cute Cubs, Birding ‘Lifers’ – Not To Be Missed …

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Dawie’s Notes from the Kgalagadi Photo Tour:

Another wonderful day awaited us when we started our early morning game drive. During the night we heard lions calling – and they sounded quite close to us. As we left the Lodge we found their tracks actually leading out of the Lodge grounds, so they had been very close … right there with us. The tracks led across the riverbed and across the dunes.

We saw many different bird species, including a number of ‘lifers’ for some of the guests. Because Sand Grouse gather in the early morning at a particular waterhole we headed there to photograph the congregation of the birds.

As we approached the waterhole we found more than just the Grouse – a lion and lioness had killed an eland earlier and were feeding. Jackals darted back and forth, trying to assess when it would be safe to dart in and grab a morsel.

We remained with there for ages, watching and photographing the action, until the lions settled down under a tree for their post-meal, noon siesta.

We had a cursory check for cheetahs that had been not far away but when we failed to find them we headed back to the Lodge. On the way we stopped for around fifteen new bird species. Again our cameras were really busy recording our mounting tally.

After a rest during the heat of the day we were ready for more birds – and more wildlife of all descriptions. We started a meandering drive back to the lions with their kill. We found ostriches sun and sand bathing while Ground Squirrels scurried around.

When we reached the lions they were still asleep and showed no sign of stirring. After photographing the jackals that took full advantage of the sleeping cats absence from the kill, we explored further down the road.

And what a joy! We came across a lioness with four young very active, busy little Cubs. They were too cute as they scrambled all over mom, climbed up and down her sides, suckled from time to times and tumbled around on their still rather unsteady little legs.

After photographing Plains game we returned to the lioness. We were very lucky as she approached quite close to us when we arrived, gave us a few lovely poses, and then figured that it was a bit warm in the full sun and she took the cubs back to a cooler shady spot that was not great for photography. But we had enjoyed those specials moments with her and had a wonderful opportunity for some superb photographs.

We headed back to the lions with the kill, and found the sated duo still asleep. But the Black-backed Jackals were still very busy as they enjoyed every moment of the lions’ absence. The setting sun gave the scene a beautiful golden orange glow, and the dusty conditions created enough drama for some wonderful images.

Almost back at the Lodge we found a herd of eland hurrying to the waterhole for a drink. Being large animals they kicked up a lot of dust, and once again the setting sun and the dust created a perfect scene. And as if that were not enough, when the eland had finished their drink, they marched in single file up and across the Dune next to the waterhole. Simply fabulous.

So after that lucky day with plenty to photograph, birding ‘lifers’, cute Cubs, and more – what an amazing experience. We relish every unique moment and look forward to whatever the morning will bring – and as I end this short report, there goes a genet, right next to me – I need to grab my camera …

A Cooperative African Wild Cat …

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Dawie’s News from the Kgalagadi Photo Tour:

 

We arrived at Rooiputs Lodge in the afternoon well in time for our first game drive. We had met at Upington Airport at noon and used the drive to the Lodge for a social get together.

After high tea we set out. It was rather warm and as we left the Lodge we could see oryx, springbok and ostriches dotted all around. A large herd of wildebeest ambled around peacefully.

We enjoyed the scenery and as we started our slow meander back to the Lodge I saw a small flicker in a tree. I looked closer and saw two ears, then two curious eyes, and finally a head, followed by the remainder of the animal. To our utter delight it was an African Wildcat. He lay on a branch and watched us as we photographed him. After a while he stood up and our cameras clicked away non stop.

Further on we saw herds of eland, and although the world here is still very dry with no rain as yet, there are beautiful cloud formations that build up in the afternoons and treat us to magnificent sunset spectacles –

– and of course they do promise rain, maybe even tomorrow …

A Thief in the Desert …

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Dawie’s News from the Kgalagadi Photo Tour:

Our morning started with a long trip up the Auob River. Because of the long distance to Mata Mata and back we took a packed lunch with us.

As we left the Lodge we found two Cape Foxes chasing each other around and around. The light was very dull as the sun was not up, and the photos that we managed to grab are more record shots than images worthy of display.

On the way we decided not to stop for any of the animals that we had already seen, and to rather try to reach our destination for the day.

However, as we neared the Dune Road we did stop briefly for Bat-eared Foxes. They always look so very appealing with their huge ears, and a few photographs in the grey light were really mandatory. The two animals scurried across the road, and stopped quite a distance from us.

The sun peeped across the horizon as we reached the dunes, and just as we rounded a bend we found an oryx bathed in the earliest golden rays of the sun. He looked magnificent. Shortly after we found a Kori Bustard and after a few photographs we continued along the Dune Road.

We arrived at a fork, and made a decision to take the left fork to a waterhole. A few metres along we spotted large lion tracks leading to the waterhole, and about a kilometre further on we found the lion enjoying an early drink. He finished his drink as we arrived and moved away. But there is a picnic spot on a ridge that overlooks the waterhole and from there we had a clear view of the large black-maned cat.

Birdlife along the road was very rewarding, and we stopped for big and small – Crimson-breasted Shrikes, a Lappet-faced Vulture, a Greater Kestrel, and a Martial Eagle that stopped for a drink.

In addition Plains game could be spotted all along the route. Oryx of course, as well as Springbok and Wildebeest and Hartebeest were spotted regularly.

We also saw plenty of tracks, and we hoped to photograph Meerkats. They don’t mind vehicles in the area, and often venture right up to the vehicles out of curiosity. The result was some awesome photographs of meerkats and also of Ground Squirrels.

After our packed lunch we headed to Twee Rivieren for fuel. On the way we stopped frequently for different animals.

We wanted to concentrate on back lighting during our late afternoon drive. With the dramatic late afternoon sun, and the dusty conditions the scene is set for some outstanding backlit photography. With this in mind we stopped for ostriches as they kicked up dust and as the sun grew lower in the sky the scene was almost perfect for our tasks. The ostriches dust-bathed, and put on quite a show as they flapped and dug in the sand.

We moved on and practised more backlit images with oryx and springbok.

Then we found a Honey Badger. He was digging around a tree, and as he dug on one side of the tree, he would dash to the opposite side to dig there, and then back again to dig on the near side. This pattern continued, with the Badger dashing back and forth, back and forth, while we tried to work out what he was trying to catch. After about twenty minutes the Badger dug on one side of the tree and suddenly a rodent popped out on the other side. With that a Pale Chanting Goshawk swooped down and grabbed the prey. The Honey Badger was furious, and showed his upset in no uncertain terms. What a shame to lose to a thief – after all that hard work!

Tomorrow we may try to track that male lion again …

Honey Badger For or Against Chanting Goshawks? …

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Dawie’s News from the Kgalagadi Photo Tour:

The Morning of our first full day at this interesting, dynamic game reserve dawned bright and clear. We weren’t sure which direction to follow for our morning drive, but decided to go towards the area that the lions called from the night before.

We found lions tracks and started to follow these when we bumped into a Honey Badger. What a fabulous sighting that turned out to be – and we spent almost three hours as the very active, busy, curious, brave little animal foraged around for food. He moved around us, past us, circled back and forth – he seemed to be everywhere as he searched and searched, digging here, sniffing there. He caught a tortoise, rodents, and a number of geckos. He furiously scratched every promising place that could conceal a meal. Our photographic opportunities were endless.

When the Badger first caught a gecko two Pale Chanting Goshawks arrived and started to scavenge from him. Every bit of any meal that the Badger managed to secure and did not eat was snatched immediately by the birds. Every now and again the Badger would miss a gecko or a rodent and the birds swooped in to grab it. Talk about teamwork! The relationship was fascinating to watch. The Badger finally became a little impatient with the Goshawks and tried to send them away.

When we noticed that the Badger was becoming a little irritable we also decided to leave so as not to add to his stress.

We continued our drive towards a waterhole, passing plenty of Plains animals along the way. Springbok, oryx and ostriches could be seen everywhere. Because the light was quite harsh at this stage we utilised the light to produce very effective High Key photographs. These always look so dramatic and eye-catching.

Eventually we turned back to the Lodge. We saw the Badger on the way back, but he was not as active as earlier. When we saw two more Chanting Goshawks we wondered if they were the same two we had photographed earlier.

Our afternoon game drive followed the same route as the morning. We didn’t expect to see the Honey Badger again, and when we heard that cheetah tracks were visible we opted to go there. We stopped for ostriches – the interaction between the parents and the youngsters kept us occupied for a while.

There is a road that goes from the waterhole directly over the dunes and we were told that the cheetahs were somewhere there as the tracks headed that way. We couldn’t see any sign of the cheetahs but we did find a pride of lions quite far from the waterhole. They were on a ridge and not close enough for particularly good photos but maybe we are just spoiled and a little fussy.

As we headed back toward the waterhole we actually found the cheetahs on a Dune. We hoped that as the afternoon faded to evening the cheetahs would get up and go for a drink. Half our wishes were granted and the cheetahs did get up to start moving around. Thy looked fabulous silhouetted against the evening light as they strolled around the Dune. But they spotted the lions and turned away from the waterhole, and away from our vantage point. Before long they were gone, leaving us with a lovely collection of images.

As it was getting quite dark we headed back to the Lodge slowly. Once again we stopped regularly to photograph the different animals in the evening light. In the morning we plan to return directly to the waterhole hoping that the lions will move closer during the night …

 

 

Taken by Surprise During High Tea …

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Taken by Surprise During High Tea …

When the flights arrived with all out Tusk Photo guests we gathered at Upington Airport to drive through to the Kgalagadi Reserve. Our comfortable accommodation at the Rooiputs Lodge is a pleasure. It is unique, beautifully situated and luxurious.

On arrival at the park we saw large herds of both Gemsbok and Springbok all the way to the Lodge.

After settling in to our rooms we gathered for high tea, and were relaxing, getting to know one another and chatting when we heard a rustle under the decking. We hardly had time to focus on the sound when a Cape Fox took us completely by surprise when it dashed out from under the covering. None of us had a camera ready, and although the sighting was exciting for us, we have no photographic record. However, we won’t forget that encounter soon. What a welcome.

As we had two hours still available to start exploring the reserve we set out for a game drive. We started at a waterhole where oryx, Springbok and Red Hartebeest arrived for a routine afternoon drink. We also saw a Black-backed Jackal and then checked the surrounding area for any tracks.

On the drive back to the Lodge we came across a Honey Badger. He scurried around busily and although he was a little too far for close-up portraits it was great to see him on our first game drive. Not far from there were saw a jackal loping along at a perfect speed for everyone to practice their panning techniques. Of course these turned out really successfully, and even those who tried panning shots for the first time had good results. We then used a variety of other photographic techniques to enhance our photography.

It was great to encounter a Spotted Hyena next. This was especially remarkable because they are unusually few and far between in this area at present. Strange how eco systems change!

When we saw a shape in a Camelthorn tree we went to check it out. It was a Spotted Eagle-owl. It looked beautiful as it sat there, glaring balefully at us.

Back at the Lodge we settled down to dinner accompanied by the sounds of the Kalahari punctuated by lions roaring repeatedly. In the morning we would like to check where those lions are …

 

Busy, Eventful, Final Game Drives …

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Dawie’s News from Ta Sebube Lodge on the Kgalagadi Photo Safari:

After the long drive to Mata Mata the day before we decided to take the day at a more leisurely pace, and as it was not far away, we first headed towards one of the areas where we saw Cheetahs previously. We hoped to see them again, and as it was our last full day for this safari, everyone was keen to photograph just about everything available.

On the way we stopped at the Cape Fox Den and spent ages there. The little pups were out and we photographed them as they romped around.

We also found some Bat-eared Foxes and were able to spend time with them as well because they were fairly relaxed and did not seem too bothered by our presence, as long as we didnt approach too close.

As always there were Oryx and Wildebeest everywhere and we again practiced panning shots – by now everyone is becoming quite adept at this technique. And once more the Ostriches put on a great show for us as they dust bathed.

During the later part of the morning we sat at a waterhole to watch what animals or birds would arrive. Sand Grouse and Cape Turtle Doves were very busy as they splashed, bathed and drank. While we watched we noticed that a couple of Lanner Falcons were very interested in the birds. And sure enough, they were more than just interested – they were hunting. We saw them swoop, but there were no catches while we watched, cameras ready. But wow, did we ever get fabulous flying shots!

On the way back to the Lodge we practised some panning shots and photographed the other Tusk photographic vehicle as it drove parallel to us.

During our final afternoon drive we concentrated on the typical photographs that are unique to the Kgalagadi area. The dunes, vegetation and animals create the type of image that could only have been captured here.

We photographed small creatures again, and used the slanting sun rays for backlit shots. And when Ostriches created a lot of dust backlit by the sun, it looked great. Some Springbok posed for us under beautiful trees that created a perfect setting for high-key photos.

We travelled further, hoping to see a Caracal or Wild Cat. We didn’t find either, but there were plenty of Ostriches that ran around, dust bathed, and created a beautiful cloud that looked beautiful with the sun creating a warm, golden light from behind the scene – a beautiful, iridescent glow shone over everything. In the middle of all that some Ostriches decided to fight, while others displayed. It was a magical moment.

We called in at the Cape Fox den again on the way back to the Lodge and found the three little pups playing tirelessly in the setting sun.

Our last early morning drive was very productive and started again with the Cape Foxes. Shortly after, we saw the Bat-eared Foxes again. They are quite relaxed, but not as much as the Cape Foxes, so we moved on, rather than disturb them.

We didn’t drive far because of time constraints – and just when we turned our vehicles around to head back to the Lodge we spotted a Lioness. She crossed the river close to us and went to rest at the top of one of the red sand dunes. She looked so beautiful up there.

On the way back to the Lodge we bumped into three more lionesses from a different pride. They were very lazy, and were not keen to move around as the day was warming quickly.

Further down the road we saw a big dust cloud and saw that two Gemsbok were sparring. Actually, it was quite a fight, and their long horns seemed about to pierce their opponent at any moment. The duelling carried on for ages, as the dust cloud thickened. And then suddenly it was all over, and the two gave up simultaneously.

At Upington airport we bade everyone farewell, and some have already arranged their next safari with us, so we should hopfully see familiar faces again soon …

Meerkats on the Lookout …

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Dawie’s Update from Ta Sebube Lodge on the Kgalagadi Photo Safari:

After fetching everyone at the airport in Upington we headed straight to the game reserve. On the way to the Lodge we saw plenty of Plains animals, including Red Hartebeest, Oryx, Ostriches, Springbok, and Wildebeest. It was a superb way to start the safari with the new arrivals.

We left for our afternoon drive and first official dame game after we checked in at the Lodge and enjoyed high tea.

Once again the Plains animals were plentiful. Ostriches were dust-bathing, watched by Springbok and Gemsbok.

When we spotted a Martial Eagle in a tree the light was golden and bright behind him, and with a cloud buildup that was lit by the early rays, the scene was quite magical. We hoped that the eagle would fly and that we could capture a shot against that lovely backdrop. But the animals don’t often do exactly what we want and although we managed to capture some great shots of the bird in the tree, he didn’t give us a flight shot. Maybe next time.

We also photographed some very alert little Meerkats. They kept a close eye on the Martial Eagle and responded to each movement he made. At every moment there were a few of the little Meerkats watching the eagle intently, ready to scuttle to safety if he left the tree.

A Leopard had been spotted on a ridge during the early hours of the morning and we headed in that direction. We didn’t manage to find a leopard, but we did come across a female cheetah.

She went to drink water and we followed to photograph her there. Actually, we followed her until sunset, and because it was late we had to leave her and return to the Lodge.

On the way back we spotted a Caracal. The light was very dim, and we did our best to capture some low light images, some of which turned out well.

Our final sighting was a Cape Fox, and in the morning we plan to visit the fox den, hoping that the new guests will get to see the pups …