Kgalagadi South Africa it is one of the most popular places in South Africa too experience wildlife, especially predators. Every aspiring wildlife photographer has to visit the Kgalagadi, and it should definitely be on their “to do” list if you have not been there before.
Kgalagadi means place of thirst.
Kalahari Black-mane Lions, Leopard, Cheetah, Brown Hyena, Spotted Hyena, Honey Badgers, Meerkat, African wild cats, and raptor species, including the majestic Martial and Tawny Eagles and the famous Bateleur Eagles are some of the highlights to look out for. Below is a lioness that fights with the King of the Kgalagadi during the mating period, and she is definitely not holding back. It is this kind of action that you can expect to see in this dry arid region in South Africa. The waterholes are clear from shrubs and thickets, as well as the river beds where most of the action is taking place. It is this uniqueness that distinct the Kgalagadi from any other national park in South Africa. It is truly a photographers haven.
The Bateleur Eagle ( Berghaan in Afrikaans) is one of South Africa’s most beautiful eagles. If you want to photograph this large eagle, then Qubitje Quap waterhole, about 10km north from Nossob rest camp, is the place to be. This is their favourite waterhole, and you will find them there in midday to early afternoon. They are excellent models to photograph and very photogenic.
Another beautiful eagle in South Africa is the Tawney Eagle. It is a big eagle, and like it name says it is tawny in coulor and piercing brown eyes. I was very lucky to photograph this eagle at such close range during our last trip to the Kgalagadi.
Another rare cat species to see is the African Wild Cat. It looks very similar to a domestic cat. It is a solitary cat outside the breeding season. It lives from mouse and rats and will occasionally eat birds.
Sprinbok fights is the norm at the Kgalagadi in spring season when it is also the mating season. Big herds can be found in the river beds. A unique feature of the Sprinbok is pronking. It takes several leaps into the air with the back bowed and the white flap lifted. They are very tame, and have right of way in the roads.
Laner Falcon, best know for the high speeds of up to 150 km/h in which it comes in low and fast. It will strike a bird in flight and stun it. It will then follow it to the ground and kill it. This image shows the Laner Falcon with a dove in its claws.
Another beautiful bird in the Kgalagadi which you will definitely see every where, is the Grimson Breasted Shrike. You will normally found them on the ground under big trees or in the trees itself.
The fasted predator in the world is the Cheetah. It reaches speeds of up to 100km/h and faster. This high speed is normally reached in just a few seconds from charging its prey. Normally after 250 meters it running out of breath and stop the chase. It feeds on small to medium antelope, and in the Kgalagadi you can be sure to see charge or two for a Springbok, ostrich or bat eared foxes.
Here are a few images of two female leopards fighting. It was not the “right time of day”, surely not the best light or the best images, but wow, what an experience! Like only the female species can do. A real “CAT….” fight.
In the photo below, it looks like both female leopards are balanced on their tails. This was definitely a territorial fight. We were following the one leopard in the river bed and was surprised to see another leopard from the other direction walking towards the one we were following. The next moment all hell break loose. A cat fight like I have never seen before. I visited the Kgalagadi now 5 times and each time I visited it it delivered different action for the trip. The Kgalagadi never disappoints and is full of surprises.
The fight only lasted for a few seconds, but it was a vicious few seconds between these two ladies. The two moved up the hill in some bushes and one could still hear some snarling, but we never saw them again. To read the full story of this cat fight read my trip report “Leopard Fight in Kgalagadi”
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a large National wildlife game reserve and conservation area in Southern Africa. The park straddles the border between South Africa and Botswana and comprises two adjoining national parks: Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa and the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana. The total area of the park is 38,000 square kilometres (15,000 sq. mi). Approximately three-quarters of the park is situated in Botswana and one-quarter in South Africa. A beautiful sunset in the Kgalagadi. One of many sunset or sunrise sightings in the Kgalagadi.
A herd of Gemsbok’s or South African Oryx is silhouetting against the golden sunset. Leaving the river bed on their way to sand dunes for the night to to grace and sleep. This mammal is very tough to live in the arid areas of Africa. They adapted to live in the dessert and get their water from the food they eat. They have long spear horns witch are very dangerous. They are very aggressive when cornered or injured and there are stories of them killing Lions, one of there main predators with their sharp horns.
This is our most favorite place for wildlife photography, due to the vastness of the area and the result of uncluttered photographs. There are three main camps, Twee Rivieren, Mata-Mata and Nossob and many wilderness camps. The main Camps are well equipped with campsites, chalets, a shop for obtaining basic foods or equipment, and have very good ablution facilities. There are several well-spaced waterholes along the routes in the Nossob and Auob river beds. Some of the waterholes have sweet water and a lot have salty water. Drive slowly and be patient. The best time for photography is early mornings and late afternoons, when the light is perfect for photography. The red dunes and the dusty sunsets are really something. The quietness and the remoteness of this region gets under one’s skin very quickly, and there is always a reason to go back.
Below two big full grown male lions in there prime, teaching a younger male a lesson or two. The fight was severe, and one could feel the trembling on the ground as they were roaring, but this is the mature predators’ way to kick the younger males out of the tribe. The mature lions want to mate with the females, and take over the pride.
We were on our way out when we saw a carcass of a Eland Bull. This two Black Back Jackals were fighting over who may feast first and who not. A n event that plays off daily in the Kgalagadi for survival of the fittest.
In the Botswana side, there are a few popular wilderness campsites as well. Rooiputs, Polentswa, Mabuasehube, are but a few. There are no fences, and the predators and other animals visit the campsites on a daily basis. This may cause much havoc around camp, especially if you want to setup or pack up camp, and there are several lions making them selves at home in the campsite.
A Brown Hyena also called a Strandwolf, chasing away some Black Backed Jackal from a carcass leftovers after the lions feasted on a Gemsbok. It is mostly a scavenger, but will feast on smaller things like mouse, insects and bird eggs. When confronted they will raise their long brown hair to look bigger and more intimidating.
Male lion on the chase. Lions are one of the biggest attractions in Africa. It is a well muscled cat, most active during the night and sleeps most of the time during the day. It is said that male lions sleeps up to 20 hours of the day. It is the female lions that do all the work, killing most of the prey. What makes the Kgalagadi male lions so beautiful is the big black manes. It makes it looks much more intimidating and bigger. Lions lives in a pride that can range from small groups as little as 5 to groups larger than 30.
A good tip for all the aspiring photographers out there: do not charge up and down the river bed from one waterhole to the other, searching for big game like the lion, leopard or cheetah. Lions are mainly nocturnal, can sleep up to 20 hours a day and are therefore not good photographic models. Have a look at the smaller animals around you as well. You would be surprised at all the other photographic opportunities in this park, besides the big predators. When you want to book for accommodation at the Kgalagadi then do so well in advance, to prevent disappointment. When I talk well in advance then a year in advance. There is a lot of Wilderness Camps in the Kgalagadi as well. Although I never had the change to visit one, I hear they say that it is really worthwhile to visit them.
If you have been to the Kgalagadi recently, then tell us about your experiences in this magical place. Or if you need information about the Kgalagadi, let us know.