Tag Archives: kalahari safari

Too Much To See In the Kalahari

Our second day in the park was a bit of a slow day. We didn’t see any cats or much in the way of large raptors either, but as we were nearing our campsite for the evening at Nossob, we started seeing more and more vultures perched on trees or on nests. We also saw lots of Pale Chanting Goshawks and a few Bateleurs. We arrived at Nossob as dark was setting in and we went with Rob to sit in a hide by the waterhole. Jackals came to drink and a couple of Pearl-spotted Owlets perched in a tree right in front of the hide.

pearl spotted owlet in kalahari
Pearl-spotted Owlet

We spent a couple of nights at Nossob before Simon and I drove north where we were to spend one night at Grootkolk while Rob drove south to pick up his cousin Col. Grootkolk consisted of just four small cottages overlooking a waterhole. I woke in the morning to the sound of Kudus alarm calling. I went out to see what was going on to find two lions at the waterhole. So we sat around for a while, drinking hot chocolate on the veranda as the sun rose over the lions. What a way to start the day! To add to the magic, hundreds of doves were coming down to drink alongside the lions until a pair of adult Lanner Falcons tore through.

lions at waterhole in kalahari
Lions at the waterhole

We were on our way to Mata Mata campsite when we pulled up at a waterhole and found several cars stopped. Lions were holding up the traffic. There were eight lions in total and they took a liking to our car (perhaps they could smell all the other lions that checked out our car during the course of the expedition). Five of them, all staring straight at me, came right up to the window. Simon said “if they make a grab for you, I’ll pull you back.” The lions were looking playful, so I decided to close my window just in case. The lions proceeded to surround the car. One young male started playing with the back tyre and Simon’s reaction was to say “stop it, stop it, naughty thing, stop it.” It was all quite fun until we got back to the campsite gate to find it locked and we got a good ticking off!

young lions chewing car tires kalahari
Young lion chewing at the back tyre

Col treated us to a night drive on one of our last evenings in the Kalahari. We were driven in a large open vehicle by our guide John. We stood on a dune to watch the sunset, and then the fun really began. Simon and Col both held spotlights and we all looked for eyes shining back at us. The main things I wanted to see on this drive were Brown Hyenas, Caracals and Cape Foxes. Our first spot of the night was a small cat that may have been a very elusive Black-footed Cat or more likely an African Wild Cat. Then we saw a Cape Fox which I was very excited about. It was nearing the end of our drive and we were on our way back to camp when we pulled in to the last waterhole. Simon could see eyes shining back in his torch and his first instinct was that it was a Cape Fox. Then he said excitedly “Caracal” and we all jumped to attention. I managed to get a couple of bad photos of it, but enough to identify it as my first Caracal. We saw another couple of Cape Foxes, a Barn Owl and lots of Spring Hares before reaching camp.

barn owl kalahari
Barn Owl

Our time in the Kalahari eventually ran out and we had seen so much: eagles, falcons, goshawks, a leopard, lions, cheetahs, a caracal, wild cats, mongooses, a genet cat, snakes, antelopes and so much more. We watched as Lanner Falcons descended upon doves and as Black-shouldered Kites built nests. Tawny Eagles pirated food from other raptors and cobras invaded weaver nests. Meerkats dug for insects and male Gemsbok made battle with each other. Ten days might seem a long time but it wasn’t enough for the Kalahari.

gemsbok fighting kalahari
Gemsbok at Battle

black shouldered kit nest building kalahari
Black-shouldered Kite collecting nesting material while being bombed by a drongo

Ten raptor kills within a day in the Kalahari

We set off from Maun for just a couple of days in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. There is something magical about the name Kalahari and we had been advised to go there by a fellow raptor-enthusiast so we had high expectations. But it managed to exceed those expectations ten-fold. The first 40km consisted of mainly scrub which meant poor visibility. We didn’t see much in the way of wildlife. Then we got to Deception Valley and immediately were surrounded by Gemsboks and Springboks. We started to see Pale Chanting Goshawks perched at regular intervals on low trees. We went in search of a water source, knowing this would be our best bet of seeing wildlife. I’ll admit that I was very keen to find Wild Dogs, as I have yet to see any and Botswana is apparently the best place to see them. We drove around dry pans but had no luck finding water. We had arrived in the park quite late and before long had to go and set up camp.

secretary bird full moon kalahari
Secretary Bird and the Kalahari’s full moon

In the morning, we renewed our search for water. We drove for a few hours until Simon spotted a Red-necked Falcon. A little further and I noticed a Gabar Goshawk dive-bombing a Lanner Falcon. From behind them a group of Sand Grouse flew up into the sky and Simon said “that’s a good sign for water.” And sure enough, there it was, the waterhole we had been looking for. It was surrounded on all sides by bushes so we found a gap that we could look through. Before long, the Lanner Falcon was diving down to the water, trying to catch doves. A young Gabar Goshawk flew in after some smaller birds, then another Gabar, and another. We counted eight at one point. A Red-necked Falcon came in and impressed us with the speed and determination with which it pursued birds around the waterhole. A pair of jackals came in to drink. Then our first kill of the day: a Gabar had caught something. Within seconds, a Lanner came down at such speed that we didn’t even see it until we saw it fly into the sky with a bird in its talons. So sooner had it gone than the Red-necked Falcon returned and this time was successful in catching something.

jackal at waterhole kalahari
Jackal Drinking at waterhole

gabar goshawk kalahari
Gabar Goshawk

We had found our most productive raptor spot of the whole expedition and we had no intention of moving. We sat there and watched incessant raptor activity for the whole day. Secretary Birds came to drink, as did a White-backed Vulture. A Shikra flew in and made a fast kill. A couple of Pale Chanting Goshawks also made an appearance, though it was the many Gabar Goshawks that kept us entertained, constantly flying across the water from bush to bush, often catching something on the way, then chasing each other around trying to pirate the food from the successful hunter. We were very disappointed that we had to leave the next day but determined that we would return for a couple of hours in the morning before exiting the park. The following morning was just as exciting and we made our way back to Maun feeling very satisfied with our trip to the Kalahari.

gabar goshawk bathing kalahari
Gabar Goshawk coming down to bathe